(b. 1518, Venezia, d. 1594, Venezia)

Portrait of a Young Gentleman

c. 1555
Oil on canvas, 105 x 92 cm
Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome

We do not know the identity of the young gentleman in the picture. He gazes out with a disquieting and indecipherable expression, a characteristic feature of some of the portraits painted by Tintoretto in the years around 1555, such as the Portrait of Onofrio Panvinio in the Galleria Colonna. Some critics detect the influence of Giorgione in these paintings (in fact this portrait was attributed to Giorgione in the inventory of 1819), but this emotional pose, with its penetrating psychological component, is a quality that seems to have been derived from Lorenzo Lotto, as can be seen from the Portrait of a Thirty-Seven Year Old Man by the latter in the Doria Pamphilj collection.

The artist's attention is concentrated not so much on a single person, as on the image of a human being's spirituality. This belongs to no single individual and is therefore always devoid of those empty decorative formulas that dominated formal portraiture in Europe at the time.

A simple dark cloak trimmed with fur, little or no spatial articulation, warm shades of colour, a granular mixture of paint for the flesh tones, and a simple gesture that leads the gaze up from the hands to the head are the basic elements of this "open conversation" that Tintoretto holds with us and with himself.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.