Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo

Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo

Head and Shoulders of a Bearded Man

Black and white chalk, with some brown wash; outlines pricked for transfer
10 1/2 x 7 5/8 inches (267 x 193 mm.)

Gift of Benjamin Sonnenberg, 1977

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Brescian by birth, Savoldo lived in Venice from at least 1520 until 1548. He was an exceptionally rare draftsman, to whom only about fifteen drawings have been attributed. His drawings exhibit the same sense of atmosphere and luminosity that characterize the chalk drawings of Titian, Lotto, and other painters of the Venetian school.

The sitter is shown in contemporary dress. His sidelong glance leveled at the viewer and full lips—parted as if about to speak—make this one of the most intriguing of Savoldo's portraits.

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Inspired by earlier northern European models, Venetian artists of the sixteenth century approached portraiture with a new naturalism. Portraits of individuals were commissioned to document physical likeness as well as social status, often conveyed through opulent clothing and lavish settings. Initially, most sitters were portrayed in strict profile, much like the depictions on ancient coins. Later, evocative three-quarter or frontal views dominated, inviting a more direct and intimate relationship with the viewer. In Venice and northern Italy, group portraits became fashionable. The artist Palma Giovane, for example, produced numerous quick sketches of his large family and wide circle of friends. Through the work of such artists as Carpaccio, Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto, Venice established a remarkable portraiture tradition.