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Portrait of an Elderly Man

Portrait of an Elderly Man, c. 1575

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Italian, c.1525-1578
Oil on canvas
20 x 16-1/2 in. (50.8 x 41.9 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
© The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

Giovanni Battista Moroni depicted the citizens of his native Bergamo with a frankness and faithfulness that was unparalleled by his contemporaries. He is considered one of the great portrait painters of the sixteenth century and, in his own time, even Titian sent him clients. His male subjects are generally deadly serious, their thin lips tight, their eyebrows arched, conscious that they are being studied by the artist. Moroni’s superb draughtsmanship is evident in this portrait where he recorded the distinctive character of his subject with a few strokes of his brush. This extreme economy of detail, where one can see the priming through the thinly applied glazes, and the textured surface of the canvas, is typical of Moroni's last period. It is a masterpiece of psychological penetration and objectivity. Moroni’s portraits are significant because they reflect the ethical values of the Counter-Reformation, which favored truth over idealization. His contribution to the tradition of North Italian realism in painting would find new expression, a generation later, in the young Caravaggio.

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