Author of lives of saints, scurrilous verses, comedies, tragedies, and innumerable letters, Pietro Aretino (1492–1556) attained considerable wealth and influence, in part through literary flattery and blackmail. Little is known of his early years, but by 1527 he had settled permanently in Venice. Among Aretino’s friends and patrons were some of the most prominent figures of his time, several of whom gave him gold chains such as the one he wears in this portrait. Clement VII made Aretino a Knight of Rhodes, and Julius III named him Knight of St. Peter. He was on intimate terms with Titian, who painted at least three portraits of him. Here the artist conveys his friend’s intellectual power through the keen, forceful head and his worldliness through the solid, weighty mass of the richly robed figure.
Source: Art in The Frick Collection: Paintings, Sculpture, Decorative Arts, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996