114 x 88.5 cm / 56.7 x 34.8 inExhibited:
Milan, Palazzo Reale, L’anima e il volto. Ritratto e fisiognomica da Leonardo a Bacon, October 1998 – March 1999,
Milan, Robilant + Voena, Giacomo Ceruti 1698 – 1767. Popolo e nobiltà alla vigilia dell’età dei Lumi, October – Dicember 2013, n. 21

M. Gregori, in L’anima e il volto, exhibition catalague, F. Caroli, Milano 1998, p. 320; P. Vanoli, in Maestri del ’600 e del ’700 2006, p. 178, n. 57; P. Vanoli, in Giacomo Ceruti 1698 – 1767. Popolo e nobiltà alla vigilia dell’età dei Lumi, exhibition catalogue, F. Frangi – A. Morandotti, Milano 2013, pp. 74 -75

The present painting was discovered in 1998 by Mina Gregori, when in the Koelliker collection, Milan. The sitter is still unidentified, although according to an oral tradition consulted by Gregori he might be a member of the Secco Suardo family.
The dating suggested by the scholar, 1750 circa, seems consistent with the artist’s stylistic evolution after his stay in Venice in the 1730s. In the period between 1735 and 1736 Ceruti was in Venice, where he painted still lifes, genre paintings, and portraits for Marshal Matthias von der Schulenburg, a refined collector who owned, among many other works, portraits by successful national and international artists, such as Hyacinthe Rigaud, Antoine Pesne, the rococò painter Rosalba Carriera and Gianantonio Guardi (F. Frangi, in Fra’ Galgario 2003, p. 322, n. XI.5). In the period 1737-39, Ceruti moved to Padua, where he realised for the Basilica del Santo the monumental altarpiece Il battesimo di Santa Giustina, which in terms of composition and use of colour looks remarkably fresh in comparison to contemporary Venetian painters, such as Tiepolo and Giovan Battista Pistoni, and which is very distant from the austerity of Ceruti’s earlier production. Further influences of his Venetian experiences can be found in his portraits as well as in his genre paintings, which after the 1730s show the sweetness and the refinement of execution typical in Venice in those years.
The rigid poses and the sombre tones usual of Ceruti’s earlier portraits are replaced in the present painting by a more elegant and theatrical presentation of the sitter and by a richer use of colour. The dark tones of the sky and the coat contrast with the brightness of the wig and the ochre and silver waistcoat, making the nobleman’s expressive face stand out. Although these details locate the present Portrait of a Gentleman decisively after Ceruti’s Venetian phase, the scarcity of portraits by the artist to be dated with any certainty between the 1750s and 1760s prevents a more precise dating. If compared to the portraits of the Lavelli spouses (Gregori 1982, p.453, nn.133-134) dated 1739, immediately before Ceruti’s Paduan phase, it will look apparent that the present work does not share with them the overt decorative character, nor the fluid composition of clear Venetian influence. It rather presents a more naturalistic rendering of the sitter and a more controlled brushwork. Such elements suggest a date later than the Lavelli pendant, probably around the 1750s, for it is stylistically close to portraits produced in those years, such as the Portrait of a Gentleman in the Thyseen Museum and, most remarkably, the Acton equestrian portrait (Gregori 1982, pp. 460-461, nn. 174, 179). At the same time, the careful realism and the thin impasto in Portrait of a Gentleman make it unlikely to be dated after the 1750s, as in that period the artist, although still loyal to his characteristic clarity and lucidity of approach, adopted a more elaborate style in order to meet the taste of contemporary aristocrats.

Paolo Vanoli


  • Title: Portait of a gentleman
  • Creator: Giacomo Ceruti
  • Creator Lifespan: 1698/1767
  • Date: 1750/1750
  • Location: Robilant + Voena
  • Physical Dimensions: w88,5 x h114 cm
  • Type: painting
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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