Salviati was active in both Florence and Rome, but his patronage during these periods was inconsistent, leading to difficulty in identifying his sitters and dating his paintings. The name of this elegantly attired man is unknown; we may only infer from the painting’s origin in Florence and his stately dress that he was a gentleman of high standing from that city. Florentine artists like Francesco Salviati were renowned for their ability to successfully convey the authority of their sitters—here, the man’s formal pose, severe demeanor and commanding stare suggest dignity and prestige. Looking out toward the viewer, he holds a letter, perhaps a note of introduction, in his left hand. His formal pose is reminiscent of antique statues, an allusion to permanence and invulnerability.
The artist effectively captured the tactile qualities of the various fabrics, from the rich green velvet of the cascading curtains to the gentleman's black silk vest and his purple slashed sleeves. The affected gesture, confident posture, and strident colors of this portrait are characteristic of mid-sixteenth-century Florentine portraiture.