This portrait possesses an expressive quality, heightened by the angle of the light which brings out the features of the face. The realism is especially evident in the stubble on the man’s chin and the swollen veins at his temple. The profile alludes directly to the classical model of ancient coins with portraits of the Roman emperors, favourite collectors’ items in the fifteenth century. The materials used by Mantegna in this painting were precious, though they have been partly lost: the dark background, which today strikes us as rather restrained, was originally a brilliant blue colour made from costly lapis lazuli.
It is anyway still possible to recognize the outstanding quality of the work, which has been attributed to Andrea Mantegna in the early phase of his career, in the years around 1450.