In this anonymous, bust-sized portrait the artist imbues his sitter with life by painting in thick, rapid brushstrokes, particularly in rendering the collar, the nose, and the eyes. The man’s distinguished character is visible in his slightly furrowed brow and pensive gaze. The signs of gray in his closely cropped hair complete the impression of a thoughtful individual and showcase Annibale’s attention to detail.
During the 1580s, the three Caracci produced a multitude of portraits in paint and in drawing. These captivating likenesses are most often scrupously observed views of the sitter’s face or profile. Annibale’s seventeenth-century biographer Malvasia relates that local tradesman like barbers, cobblers, and hatmakers routinely asked the artist for a portrait in exchange for services. Annibale, it is said, was loath to decline even the most modest request.