Portraits in the Castello Sforzesco's art gallery

Portrait of Borso D'Este (Between 1469 and 1471) by Baldassarre d’Este [Vicino da Ferrara] (circle of)Sforzesco Castle

Baldassarre d’Este, "Portrait of Borso d’Este"

The portrait depicts Borso d'Este, Duke of Ferrara between 1452 and 1471. The aim of the work seems to have been representational: after having been painted at the court, it could have been sent to Gian Galeazzo Sforza in Milan.

The depiction of the subject in profile – which brings to mind the models of ancient coinage – and the dark blue background are reminiscent of the Milanese portraiture style.

Bona di Savoia presented by a holy martyr (1471/1472) by Lombard painterSforzesco Castle

Zanetto Bugatto, " Bona of Savoy presented by a Martyred Saint"

Two portraits feature in this painting. The Martyred Saint, i.e. a woman killed for advocating Catholicism, is identified by a symbolic palm leaf. With her left hand, she supports Bona of Savoy, Duchess of Milan, who is shown kneeling on the left.

In this devotional scene, the protagonist Bona, supported by the Saint, is in adoration of Mary or Jesus, who were probably depicted in the missing part of the painting.

Portrait of Galeazzo Maria Sforza (Between 1474 and 1476) by Zanetto Bugatto (attributed to)Sforzesco Castle

(Attributed to) Zanetto Bugatto, "Portrait of Galeazzo Maria Sforza"

The artist was the court painter of the Duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza; the model of the portrait takes its inspiration from ancient coins and medals, following the stylistic canons of 15th-century Lombardy. This work, along with the previous one, was originally placed on the Altar of San Giuseppe in Milan's Duomo.

Female portrait (Between 1505 and 1507) by Andrea SolarioSforzesco Castle

Andrea Solario, "Portrait of a Lady"

The identity of this lady is not known for certain. For many years, she was thought to be Isabella of Aragon (1471 - 1529), daughter of the King of Naples and wife of Gian Galeazzo Sforza from 1489 onwards. However, other paintings of Isabella depict her with quite different physical features.

The bright colours of the lady's dress are of particular interest here: when examined closely, many of the fabric's decorative details can be seen.

Saint Lucia and Saint Dorothy with a man worshipping (1508) by Girolamo GiovenoneSforzesco Castle

Girolamo Giovenone, "Saint Dorothy and Saint Lucy with One of the Faithful"

This work, along with another in a similar style which also hangs in the castle, is mentioned in writing by the chronicler Carlo Antonio Coda of Biella, who describes its location on the altar of the Meschiati family in the Church of San Domenico in Biella. It was customary for noble families to subsidise religious communities, with the latter taking care of the family’s spiritual needs in return. In the same passage, we discover that, in 1508, two brothers, Bartolomeo and Pietro, paid to have an altarpiece featuring their portraits. Unfortunately, it is impossible to tell which of the two brothers is depicted here, but the text is useful to us because it reveals the names of the saints on the back: Dorothy and Lucy.

Portrait of Lorenzo Lenzi (1527 - 1528 approx.) by Agnolo Allori, known as BronzinoSforzesco Castle

Agnolo di Cosimo (known as Bronzino), "Portrait of  Lorenzo Lenzi"

In this 16th-century Florentine work, the identity of the boy in the painting has been ascertained by analysing the verses written in the book he holds in his hand.

The right-hand page features a sonnet by the poet Francesco Petrarch, while the other presents a sonnet dedicated to Lorenzo Lenzi by the poet Benedetto Varchi, a friend of the artist.

The fact that this second page is better-lit and closer to the viewer is no accident: it indicates that the figure holding the book is the subject of the sonnet, identifying the portrait beyond any doubt.

Portrait of a woman showing the effigy of her deceased husband (Between 1525 and 1528) by Bernardino LicinoSforzesco Castle

Bernardino Licinio, "Portrait of a Lady Holding a Portrait of Her Husband"

This work is interesting due to its skilful use of portraiture as a tool: it clearly features a female figure holding a picture showing a man's face, but it is the details of the lady's dress that reveal the wistful element and the true subject of the work.

The black dress symbolises that the woman is a widow, while the embroidery on it, with the two dogs running and then resting together on the lawn, symbolises devotion between two figures, leading us to believe that they were husband and wife.

Portrait of a man who is reading (Between 1517 and 1523) by Antonio Allegri, known as CorreggioSforzesco Castle

Antonio Allegri (known as Correggio), "Portrait of a Man with a Book"

This work is one of the few portraits produced by this artist. To this day, the identity of the figure reading the book has not been confirmed.

If we look closely at the painting, a deer can be seen on the right-hand side, and this may be a hint: some believe that the volume is a "petrarchino", a book containing the sonnets of the famous Italian poet Petrarch, perhaps open at one of his two compositions in which a deer is mentioned. Other critics, meanwhile, believe that the animal is a heraldic symbol that refers to a coat of arms in the Del Bono chapel of the Church of San Giovanni Evangelista in Parma.

Portrait of Livia de Lanchi (Third quarter of the 16th century) by Europa Anguissola (attributed to)Sforzesco Castle

Attributed to Europa Anguissola, "Portrait of Livia de Lanchi"

The figure depicted here is indicated on the painting by an inscription in the upper-left corner. Initially painted over, it was revealed following a restoration: livia de lanchis | anno (year) […] 18.

The provenance of this painting is disputed, but stylistic similarities suggest that it is potentially by a member of the Anguissola family from Cremona; this was a family of six sisters , all painters, who lived during the 16th century. Of the sisters, the most plausible candidate for this work is Europa: she was active in the 1570s, a period in which the clothing of the figure depicted here was very fashionable.

Portrait of the poet Raffaele Zovenzoni (the poet laureate) (1467 approx.) by Giovanni BelliniSforzesco Castle

Giovanni Bellini, "The Poet Laureate (Portrait of the Poet Raffaele Zovenzoni)"

The artist's depiction of this man follows the canons of the ideal humanist: in three-quarter view, with his hair encircled by a myrtle branch, wearing an old-fashioned robe.

The subject has been identified thanks to a miniature featuring a portrait of the poet Raffaele Zovenzoni, preserved in the Trivulziana Library of the Castello Sforzesco and accompanied by a letter from the poet confirming the existence of a painting by Giovanni Bellini, featuring the same subject.

Portrait of a young man (Between 1524 and 1527) by Lorenzo LottoSforzesco Castle

Lorenzo Lotto, " Portrait of a Young Man with a Book"

We have no information on the identity of this boy, who seems to be sitting and to have been captured just after closing the book. Even the inclusion of the work in the corpus of Lorenzo Lotto lacks an indisputable source, but its stylistic similarity with other portraits by the artist, a very talented portrait painter, leads to universal agreement among critics as to its attribution.

Portrait of a young man with a dog (1530) by Antonio SacchienseSforzesco Castle

Antonio Sacchiense, "Portrait of a Gentleman with a Small Dog"

The work is signed and dated by this painter from Friuli.

We have no information on the identity of the figure depicted, but the components of the portrait refer to his culture (the book)

and to devotion (the dog).

The composition is divided into two levels: the portrait in the foreground and the background behind a parapet follow the canons of Venetian portraiture.

Madonna enthroned with Child and Saints Francis and Anthony from Padova and a donor (1528 - 1529 approx.) by Girolamo da Romano, known as RomaninoSforzesco Castle

Girolamo da Romano  (known as Romanino), "The Virgin Enthroned with the Child, Saints Francis and Anthony of Padua, and a Donor"

In this devotional scene, the only realistic portrait is that of the donor, whose true identity is unknown.

Portrait of Bartolomeo Colleoni (Between 1566 and 1569) by Giovan Battista MoroniSforzesco Castle

Giovan Battista Moroni, "Portrait of Bartolomeo Colleoni"

As the signature at the bottom reveals, the portrait depicts Bartolomeo Colleoni, a condottiero from the city of Bergamo.

The representation of the figure in profile and half-length, wearing armour and bareheaded, follows the portraiture model of the medals of the time.

Portrait of the Ambassador Gabriel de Luetz d’Aramont (1541/1542) by Tiziano VecellioSforzesco Castle

Titian, "Portrait of the Ambassador Gabriel de Luetz Monseigneur d'Aramon"

This work is by the renowned Venetian painter, as attested by the signature at the top of the canvas. The man's identity can also be deduced from the dedication: a French diplomat and man-at-arms in the service of King Francis I who was exiled due to certain misdeeds but welcomed back to the court thanks to the French ambassador in Venice, going on to fulfil diplomatic duties in Constantinople and Turkey.

Portrait of the procurator Jacopo Soranzo (1550 - 1551 approx.) by Jacopo Robusti, known as TintorettoSforzesco Castle

Jacopo Robusti (known as Tintoretto), "Portrait of the Procurator Jacopo Soranzo"

This portrait joined the castle’s collection along with two other paintings that together depicted the whole Soranzo family, who were of Venetian origin.

Portrait of the surgeon Enea Fioravanti (After 1625) by Daniele CrespiSforzesco Castle

Daniele Crespi, "Portrait of the Surgeon Enea Fioravanti"

We can identify the figure thanks to the writing on the back of the canvas, which indicates both the subject and the artist.

The surgeon's hallmark is the skull in his hand, a sign of his studies and his knowledge of anatomy. On the other hand, the medal around his neck remains unidentified: it could be a decoration, or perhaps a symbol with a particular meaning.

Portrait of Lady Angelica de Alessandri (1643) by Carlo CeresaSforzesco Castle

Carlo Ceresa, "Portrait of the Noblewoman Angelica de Alessandri"

The writing in the upper corners of this painting tells its story, revealing that it was commissioned as a symbol of affection – amoris ergo – by the woman's son-in-law, Zaccaria Novati, in 1643.

We can also deduce that the woman was already a widow when the portrait was made, as we can see the clasp to which a widow's veil would have been attached on her forehead.

Portrait of Ortensia Mancini, duchess of Mazzarino (Documented from 1676 to 1680) by Jacop Ferdinand Voet (attributed to)Sforzesco Castle

(Attributed to) Jacob Ferdinand Voet, "Portrait of Ortensia Mancini, Duchess of Mazzarino"

This work is connected to a series of thirty-seven paintings that the artist created between 1671 and 1672 for the collection of Palazzo Chigi in Ariccia near Rome. In it, he depicted the faces of Roman women of the time, who were known for their beauty. The success of the cycle was such that the painter and his workshop produced copies, including the work now on display in the castle.

The woman portrayed here is Ortensia Mancini, Duchess of Mazzarino.

Portrait of a youth as a sculptor (1730 approx.) by Vittore Ghislandi, known as Fra’ GalgarioSforzesco Castle

Vittore Ghislandi (known as Fra' Galgario), "Portrait of a Young Man Dressed as a Sculptor"

The creator of this painting is famous for producing "character" portraits, i.e. portraits inspired by real-life models but intended to depict an idea rather than a specific person. 

In this case, the statuette that the boy holds in his hand reveals that the subject is a sculptor.

Portrait of a youth as an artist (1730 approx.) by Vittore Ghislandi, detto Fra’ GalgarioSforzesco Castle

Vittore Ghislandi (known as Fra' Galgario), "Portrait of a Young Man Dressed as an Artist"

This painting also belongs to the category of "character" portraits for which the painter was renowned.

The subject is the personification of an artist, represented with colourful garments and holding a chalk-holder stylus which is fastened to a stick, perhaps a mahlstick, by a piece of fabric.

Credits: All media
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