CF STUDIES JOURNAL 06 - Page 94



92
Technical experimentation in the art of Sebastiano del Piombo: some further thoughts
A similar head can also be found in the Man in Armour
in the Wadsworth Athenaeum (fig. 7) – a painting
whose date has fluctuated, until recently, over an even
greater period of time, roughly a decade – and in a
related image, painted in oils on paper, that has been
recently discovered at Capodimonte and attributed
to Daniele da Volterra.21 While the new Portrait of a
Man in Armour is certainly by Sebastiano’s hand, who
the actual sitter is remains uncertain; however, it is
certainly too early in date to show Ippolito. When the
Wadsworth Man in Armour is taken as a portrait, it is
now usually identified as a member of the Gonzaga
family – indeed I remain unconvinced that even the
three-quarter length portrait represents Ippolito – and
it seems more likely that these identifications represent
wishful thinking on the part of those with a very
specific view of Sebastiano’s life and career.
Fig. 6 / Titian, Portrait of
Ippolito de Medici in a
Hungarian Costume, ca.
1532, oil on canvas, 138 x
106 cm, Florence, Palazzo
Pitti.
Fig. 7 / Sebastiano del
Piombo, Portrait of a Man
in Armour, ca. 1512-1520,
oil on canvas, 87.63 x
66.67 cm, Hartford, CT,
Wadsworth Atheneum.
This new Portrait of a Man in Armour was first published
by Alessandro Ballarin, who identified the sitter as
Ippolito de’ Medici (1511-1535), the illegitimate son
of Giuliano de’ Medici and nephew to Leo X. The
portrait can be related to a similar head that recurs
in a number of problematic paintings that have been
dated to around the early 1530s, in particular a threequarter length so-called Ippolito de’ Medici in a private
collection.20 One problem with the identification is that
the date of this three-quarter length painting is more
likely to be in the mid-1520s. The armour of the figure
portrayed here could also present a problem as Ippolito,
from 1529, was made (very reluctantly) cardinal,
although he was famously portrayed around 1532 by
Titian in secular Hungarian garb as a huntsman (fig. 6)
The armour in both the Wadsworth painting and
the newly emerged portrait on slate are strikingly
similar, although much less of it is depicted in the latter
work. This armour itself, that of a heavy cavalryman,
poses a problem too as it is dateable to the late
fifteenth century and thus a conscious anachronism.22
Nonetheless, given the military connotations of the
armour worn by this figure, he may indeed be a
younger member of one of the various Gonzaga of the
cadet branches, a number of whom were, according
to Vasari, painted by Sebastiano. These men, like
Ludovico “Rodomonte” Gonzaga, made their careers
as soldiers of fortune.23 But one could make other
hypothetical identifications for these men in armour,
as there were in the 1520s and 1530s several leading
soldiers of fortune active in the papal service whom
Vasari also states were painted by Sebastiano: for
example, Marc’Antonio Colonna and Ferdinando,
Marchese di Pescara.24
Technical experimentation in the art of Sebastiano del Piombo: some further thoughts
93

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