A cobbler poses with a shoe in his right hand. He is plainly dressed in gray, black, and white as he sits in a nondescript chair against a vacant background. What captivates the artist are the man’s extraordinary features—and the long life they evoke. His lengthy gray beard and prominent, wrinkled forehead are meticulously painted and noticeably reflect light within an otherwise dim environment.
The subject of this portrait was Duke Ranucio I Farnese’s personal cobbler. His name was Vincenzo Grassi, and he worked in the duke’s employ for 55 years, from 1573 to 1628. The artist Bartolomeo Schedoni was Rannucio’s favorite painter and similarly enjoyed his unwavering patronage. The portrait’s absence of affectation is notably modern and suggests that Schedoni knew and understood his sitter’s character.