Ambrosiana

PORTRAIT OF A GENTLEMAN
GIOVAN BATTISTA MORONI

Giovan Battista Moroni was one of the greatest portrait painters of the sixteenth century, as this beautiful painting shows. On the stone fragment at the bottom right, there is an inscription in Roman numerals, indicating the year when the painter finished this portrait: 1554. It represents a gentleman, full-length, leaning against the base of a column, which bears a sentence taken from the Odes of Horace: “The ruins will strike him fearlessly”. Thanks to this motto, it is possible to identify the portrayed character: he is Michel de l’Hospital, representative of the King of France at the Council of Trent, who had chosen this Horatian quote as his motto. Moroni loved to portray his subjects by contextualising them in elements that defined their personality, which is why the French nobleman is portrayed among ruins, with reference to his heraldic enterprise. Noteworthy is also the painter’s great attention to detail: from the character’s dress to the subtle play of shadows.

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