Francesco Salviati specialized in decorating prestigious palaces with immense frescoes that recount grandiose narratives. Yet in this self-portrait the artist defines himself with a great economy of means. He sports a heavy beard and wears a fashionable black doublet, topped with a black beret. His only accessory is a sword. The spare classical architecture in gray stone evokes his Florentine origins.
Salviati was the best friend of Giorgio Vasari—the biographer of Italian Renaissance artists. Vasari wrote a lengthy, detailed life of Salviati, whom he knew since the age of nine. He describes Salviati as a melancholy man who preferred to work alone. This self-portrait is discussed by the author and dates to the mid-1540s when the two men were decorating the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.