Artibus et Historiae no. 68 (XXXIV)

2013, ISSN 0391-9064

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LINDA BOREAN - Remarks on the Collectors’ Portraits in Venice between the Late Cinquecento and Early Seicento (pp. 105-119)

The Venetian portrait painting of the Cinquecento and Seicento provides an important, even if small, group of portraits of people who were among the most significant collectors of antiquities and paintings, ancient and modern. The portrait of a ‘class’ of people, rather than by a particular artist and, in this case, the portrait of the collector in Venice in the modern era, is a subject that has hitherto been only partially explored by scholars and therefore calls for further research and reflection.

Until now, these works have been studied almost exclusively with regard to the artist–client relationship, with the exception of the portrait of Andrea Odoni by Lorenzo Lotto, which is a kind of archetype of or prototype for the Venetian tradition of a collector’s portrait, very different from its counterparts produced in the Flemish tradition, because the protagonist is always accompanied only by few objects associated with his collection, but never with pictures (even when, especially from the early seventeenth century, paintings gained a predominant place in the galleries of the Venetians). Moreover, in the first half of the seventeenth century, some collectors preferred ‘history’ or allegorical portraits, which immortalized them in the guise of gods or characters from ancient history, from portraits in a setting featuring the works of art.

The essay examines the relationship between portraits and literary and/or documentary sources, in the light of new evidence acquired in the course of the present research on Venetian collectors, and tries to show how the text and image contributed to outlining a biography of a collector, since portraits may be considered as a sort of ‘visual biography’, and it is therefore important to examine the extent to which the painted image of a person corresponds with the facts known from written sources (including wills, inventories, and treatises).

The cases discussed include the portraits of: Giovanni Paolo Cornaro, Bartolomeo Dalla Nave, Lucas Van Uffel, Alvise Molin, Ludovico Widmann, as well as two anonymous collectors depicted in two little-known paintings attributed to Daniel van den Dyck and Bernardo Strozzi.

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