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A Bernini self-portrait?


In 1976 the National Gallery of Victoria acquired from the dealer David Carritt in London a portrait of a young man, a work identified as a self-portrait of the young Gianlorenzo Bernini (fig. 1).1 See E. Devapriam, in European Paintings before 1800 in the National Gallery of Victoria, 4th edn, by U. Hoff, Melbourne, 1995, pp. 16–17. The present article is an extended version of my entry in European Masterpieces: Six Centuries of Paintings from the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia (exh. cat.), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2000, cat. no. 20. At the time, the Bernini attribution received support from those who knew the picture in London, although not all were convinced that the work was a self-portrait.2 Benedict Nicolson, letter to Ursula Hoff, 20 May 1976, National Gallery of Victoria files, gave the Melbourne picture to Bernini and described it as a self-portrait: ‘[N]obody in their senses could doubt that this is a real masterpiece by Bernini, done of his own face when he was still a very young man. I would say it dated from the early 1620’s’; Ursula Hoff, acquisition report, 1976, National Gallery of Victoria files, reported also the views of Denis Mahon, who gave the picture to Bernini (identity of sitter unconfirmed), and of Michael Levey and Jennifer Montagu, both of whom regarded the attribution to Bernini as very plausible (identity of sitter unconfirmed). Subsequent opinions recorded in the National Gallery of Victoria files are sceptical of the attribution to Bernini and hence of the identification of the sitter,3 Ronald Cohen (Trafalgar Galleries, London), letter to Kenneth Hood, 8 March 1984: ‘[I]t seems to me that the technique owes much to the influence of Velazquez to whom your portrait was originally attributed … As Bernini himself would have been thirty-one in 1629 I feel that it is perhaps more likely that the painting is of another sitter (unless of course the painter was flattering himself) … P.S. I would have thought the painting datable after 1650 rather than before’; Irving Lavin (Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey), letter to Emma Devapriam, 21 August 1992: ‘I have always been skeptical about the painting – although I have never seen it, and it certainly belongs with the many pictures of this type, physiognomical and otherwise, the attributions and identifications of which go back and forth between Velázquez and Bernini. In this case, the frothy treatment of the lace collar and costume [reminds] me more of Fragonard than any of the paintings usually associated with Bernini!’; Emma Devapriam (Senior Curator of European Paintings, National Gallery of Victoria), letter to Irving Lavin, 10 September 1992: ‘I entirely agree with you that the treatment of the lace collar and costume is very different from any of the paintings associated with Bernini. Even the hair is too soft. In my opinion, in colouring, this painting is more Spanish than Italian. Recently … Dr. Angela Negro and Dr Claudia Tempesta [of the Galleria Borghese, Rome] came to our Gallery … Both … believed that [the portrait] is not by Bernini but perhaps by a Spanish painter’; Keith Christiansen (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), letter to Emma Devapriam, 12 November [1992]: ‘I should have thought, superficially, that it looks less like those Bernini portraits I know of in the Borghese than artists around Velázquez, but I really feel insufficiently informed to go any further than this comment’. All correspondence referred to here is located in the National Gallery of Victoria files. but only Tomory and Gaston have cast doubt on the attribution in print.4 P. Tomory & R. Gaston, Summary Catalogue: European Paintings before 1800 in Australian and New Zealand Public Collections, Sydney, 1989, no. 205, as circle of Bernini (?), self-portrait(?). Recent discussions of Bernini’s self-portraits ignore the Melbourne painting, but whether this is because of a conscious rejection of the identification of the sitter or merely because the picture is little known is unclear.5 See, for example, A. Weston-Lewis & T. Clifford, ‘Portraits of Bernini, Portrait Drawings and Caricatures’, in Effigies and Ecstasies: Roman Baroque Sculpture and Design in the Age of Bernini (exh. cat.), ed. A. Weston-Lewis, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1998, pp. 47–63; K. Herrmann Fiore, ‘Tre ritratti dipinti da Gian Lorenzo Bernini nella Galleria Borghese’, in Bernini scultore: La nascita del Barocco in casa Borghese (exh. cat.), eds A. Coliva & S. Schiitze, Galleria Borghese, Rome, 1998, pp. 233–9; M. Fagiolo dell’Arco, K. Herrmann Fiore, F. Petrucci, S. Bruno, T. Montanan & L. Mochi Onori, in Gian Lorenzo Bernini: Regista del Barocco (exh. cat.), eds M. G. Bernardini & M. Fagiolo dell’Arco, Palazzo Venezia, Rome, 1999, cat. nos 1–18, pp. 295–307. This article will examine the question of whether the National Gallery of Victoria’s painting can be satisfactorily included in the corpus of Bernini self-portraits. Close comparisons will be made – on the basis of the physiognomy and costume of the sitter, as well as specific stylistic considerations – between the Melbourne picture and accepted Bernini self-portraits.

A case for identifying the Melbourne painting as a Bernini self-portrait rests on the picture’s resemblance to the earlier of two self-portraits at the Galleria Borghese, Rome (fig. 2). In both the Melbourne picture and the Borghese picture, the sitter is young (under thirty) and has a thin face, a squarish, slightly protruding chin, and a sparse moustache turning down at the ends; neither sitter has a chin tuft. The resemblance is sufficiently close to warrant exploring the matter further.

The attribution of, and identification of the sitter in, the Galleria Borghese portrait are today unquestioned, but the dating of the painting hinges on its relationship to a portrait engraving by Ottavio Leoni (fig. 3)6 See A. Weston-Lewis, in Weston-Lewis, cat. no. 1; Fagiolo dell’Arco, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 2, p. 295. For Leoni, see C. R. Robbin, ‘Ottavio Leoni as a Painter: New Evidence from an Inventory of His House on via del Babuino’, Storia dell’arte, no. 100, 2000, pp. 84–93; H. W. Kruft, ‘Ottavio Leoni als Porträtmaler’, Storia dell’arte, no. 72, 1991, pp. 183–90. and to the preparatory drawing for that engraving, in the Biblioteca Marucelliana, Florence (fig. 4).7 See Fagiolo dell’Arco, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 1, p. 295. The Leoni engraving is dated 1622 and shows Bernini wearing the cross of a Cavaliere di Gesù Cristo (Knight of the Order of Christ), an honour he had received from Pope Gregory XV in the previous year.8 See S. Schütze, ‘Arte liberalissima e nobilissima: Die Künstlernobilitierung im päpstlichen Rom – ein Beitrag zur Sozialgeschichte des Künstlers in der frühen Neuzeit’, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, vol. 55, no. 3, 1992, p. 339 n. 60. Bernini wears his hair short, revealing one of the ears that Wittkower called ‘ugly’,9 R. Wittkower, ‘Works by Bernini in the Royal Academy’, Burlington Magazine, vol. XCIII, no. 575, January 1951, p. 52. but that Weston-Lewis, more neutrally, describes as having a ‘distinctive inverted pinna’.10 Weston-Lewis, in Weston-Lewis, cat. no. 1. The youthful artist has a thick handlebar moustache and a tuft of hair on the chin. This is how Bernini wore his beard for much of his life (although in his maturity the chin tuft is longer, and in his old age the moustache and chin tuft lose their luxuriance and turn white, as in portraits by Giovanni Battista Gaulli, Il Baciccio).11 See Weston-Lewis, in Weston-Lewis, cat. no. 7, repr.; Mochi Onori, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 14, p. 303, repr. p. 57; Petrucci, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 15, pp. 303–4, repr. p. 58. The thinness of the moustache and the absence of the chin tuft in the Borghese painting might therefore be adduced to support Wittkower’s argument that the painting predates the Leoni engraving – Bernini not yet having developed the mature form of his beard – and was executed ‘probably between 1619 and 1621’.12 Wittkower, ‘Works by Bernini in the Royal Academy’, pp. 52–5. For subsequent views, favouring a dating around 1622, see M. Fagiolo dell’Arco & M. Fagiolo dell’Arco, Bernini: Una introduzione al gran teatro del barocco, Rome, 1967, no. 26, as 1622; M. Marini, in Trafalgar Galleries at the Royal Academy III (sale cat.), Trafalgar Galleries, London, 1983, p. 60, as c.1622; Weston-Lewis, in Weston-Lewis, p. 50, as slightly earlier than the Leoni engraving; A. Coliva (ed.), Velázquez a Roma, Velázquez e Roma (exh. cat.), Galleria Borghese, Rome, 1999, cat. no. 15, as generally dated c.1621–22. However, matters are not that simple. In the Self-Portrait(?) as a Holy Warrior, which is attributed either to Bernini himself or to his assistant Carlo Pellegrini and which has been dated to the late 1620s13 See Weston-Lewis, in Weston-Lewis, p. 50. or c.163014 See M. G. Bernardini, ‘“Il gran Michelangelo del suo tempo”: La vita, il personaggio’, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 4, p. 49, as by Bernini; Petrucci, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 4, pp. 296–7, as by Bernini. (private collection) (fig. 5), and in a self-portrait drawing in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, a work dated to around 1635 (fig. 6),15 Weston-Lewis, in Weston-Lewis, cat. no. 2, dates the drawing to the second half of the 1620s on the basis of the apparent age of the sitter. Petrucci, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 8, p. 298, repr. p. 52, dates to c.1635, however, another version of the drawing – a work that is in the Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica, Rome, and is now generally agreed to be a copy. The latter dating seems the more convincing of the two for the Ashmolean drawing. the chin tuft is similarly absent.

 

Before we jump to the conclusion that Bernini changed his beard type on a number of occasions, it may be worth taking another look at the chronology of the artist’s self-portraits. This has become unduly complicated as a result of attempts to date both portraits and self-portraits on the basis of the apparent age of the sitter, which can prove problematic when a painting is based on an earlier prototype. For example, Fagiolo dell’Arco, while admitting its dependence on the 1622 Leoni engraving, nevertheless considers the engraved portrait of Bernini in Joachim von Sandrart’s Academia Todesca to have been modified to show a slightly older Bernini, a little after 1630.16 Fagiolo dell’Arco, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 7, p. 298, repr. p. 52. Yet whether Sandrart’s changes were indeed an attempt to update Leoni so as to show an older sitter – or whether they were simply inaccuracies in the rendition from the prototype – is open to doubt. The main difference is the elongation of the head in Sandrart’s engraving, which in this respect develops cues embedded in the Leoni engraving, although the elongated head has no counterpart in the iconography of Bernini portraiture in the 1630s. Similarly, the arguments proposed by Petrucci for dating to c. 1630 a self-portrait drawing in the Vatican,17 Petrucci, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 5, p. 297, repr. p. 50. thereby separating this drawing from the later of the two painted self-portraits at the Galleria Borghese (a work convincingly dated c.1635 by recent scholars) (fig. 7),18 Herrmann Fiore, ‘Tre ritratti dipinti’, cat. no. 24, dated this picture c.1630–35 in 1998; she has subsequently proposed c.1635, citing the work of Fagiolo dell’Arco and Fagiolo dell’Arco, who suggested this date on the basis of biographical data (Herrmann Fiore, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 6, p. 298). I. Sgarbozza, in Coliva, cat. no. 17, gives a dating of c.1638. seem contrived, given that both drawing and painting show essentially the same features and gaze.

We ought therefore to be cautious about using the Self- Portrait(?) as a Holy Warrior as evidence for a change in beard type in the late 1620s. While the hair has the wildness and length found in portraits of the 1630s, yet in the turn of the head and in the gaze, as well as in the treatment of the moustache and the absence of the chin tuft, this picture is strikingly similar to the earlier of the Galleria Borghese self-portraits (fig. 2). Although the qualitative superiority of the Borghese painting makes one want to keep an open mind about the attribution of the Holy Warrior to Bernini himself (note, for example, the laboured treatment of the pink outlining of the eyes), it is possible that this work is based on the Borghese picture or on a drawing corresponding to it. If so, the date at which the painting was executed may be immaterial to the way Bernini is depicted, his features and moustache recording his appearance at the time the Borghese picture was painted. Hence the Holy Warrior is poor evidence that Bernini reverted to wearing a thin, downward-turning moustache and no chin tuft after 1622.

The evidence of the absence of the chin tuft in the Ashmolean drawing is not, however, so easy to dispose of, and it was this aspect of the drawing which prompted Wittkower to date it to before the Leoni engraving (that is, to c.1621–22), and to date the first Borghese self-portrait slightly earlier still (to c.1619–21).19 Wittkower, ‘Works by Bernini in the Royal Academy’, pp. 52–5. Yet the heavy features in the Ashmolean drawing suggest an older sitter.20 See Weston-Lewis, in Weston-Lewis, cat. no. 2. The pose of the sitter – the twist of the neck, the orientation of the head and the intense gaze – links this drawing with the largest group of Bernini portraits, which, to take the general consensus, mostly date to around 1635, when the artist was in his mid thirties.

This group includes four self-portraits, two of which are of undoubted authenticity. One of these, the later self-portrait at the Galleria Borghese, was formerly half of a double portrait with Bernini’s mistress Costanza Bonarelli and was apparently dismembered after the relationship ended. This painting is perhaps Bernini’s most successful image of himself as the fiery and proud artist, and, presumably, lover. The second secure self-portrait, at the Uffizi, Florence, a work dated c.1640 by Herrmann Fiore,21 Herrmann Fiore, ‘Tre ritratti dipinti’, cat. no. 22. is also a powerful, if more mellow, self-image (fig. 8). The third and fourth pictures (at the Prado, Madrid,22 ibid., cat. no. 23, repr. and at the Musée Fabre, Montpellier23 ibid., cat. no. 21, repr.) are less impressive, being more diffuse in their psychological presence and less thinly structured. In all four works the lips are slightly parted, implying that the sitter is breathing or about to speak. (The same device is employed by Bernini in his two sculpted portraits of Scipione Borghese, of 1632, at the Galleria Borghese,24 See R. Wittkower, Gian Lorenzo Bernini: The Sculptor of the Roman Baroque, 2nd edn, London, 1966, no. 31, pp. 199–200, reprs. and is perhaps derived from the self-portraits of Simon Vouet, which date from as early as c.1618–19.25 J. Thuillier, Vouet (exh. cat.), Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, 1990, cat. no. 10, repr., dates a Vouet self-portrait at the Musée Réattu, Arles, to c.1618–19, the more mature self-portrait at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, to c.1626–27 (cat. no. 20, repr.).) Also in all four pictures the sitter wears a handlebar moustache, a long chin tuft, and medium-length hair that exposes the ear lobes and is longer at the back.

An independent witness of Bernini’s appearance in the mid 1630s is a portrait by Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, known as Il Grechetto. This picture, at the Galleria di Palazzo Bianco, Genoa, has been dated c.1634 and shows the moustache and chin tuft, but neither is as luxuriant as in the mature self-portraits, and the hair is much longer.26 See Fagiolo dell’Arco, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 9, p. 299, repr. p. 53.

The Ashmolean drawing, while lacking the chin tuft, shares with the Borghese and Uffizi self-portraits, as well as with the paintings in Madrid and Montpellier, the luxuriant handlebar moustache and the length of the hair, the thickness of which is admirably conveyed. Also similar in all five works is the angle of gaze. Notably absent in the drawing, though, is the bony sharpness of the jawline, seen in both the earlier and the later Borghese portraits and very much in evidence in the Uffizi and Prado paintings. Moreover, the drawing is the only one of the self-portraits in which the hair parting is on the sitter’s right. Since self-portraits involved the use of a mirror, and thus showed a reversed image of the sitter, the fact that in the painted self-portraits Bernini depicts himself with a part on the left side means that he must normally have worn his part on the right – as the Leoni drawing and engraving confirm (in the Castiglione portrait, the sitter’s hat obscures the hairline). The confidence with which the attribution of the Ashmolean drawing to Bernini is greeted would appear to rule out the possibility of its being a portrait by another; therefore, Bernini must have changed his parting at least once. Both the side on which the hair is parted and the absence of the chin tuft make this drawing an odd man out among the portraits and self-portraits dating from after 1622.27 For a further exception – a picture now in a private collection and formerly with Trafalgar Galleries, London – see Marini, cat. no. 23, repr.; and his ‘Un contributo a Gianlorenzo Bernini “al dipingere … molto inclinator”’, FIMA antiquari, 1992, pp. 41–50. In this work the sitter holds dividers, with a palette and brushes nearby, being thus identified as both architect and painter. The costume, clean-shaven chin, handlebar moustache, and hair of the sitter are comparable with the same elements in the Ashmolean drawing. In the painting, however, the sitter’s forehead is taller and the chin lacks the assertive angularity of Bernini’s secure self-portraits, while the overall handling does not appear to be of a high quality. These factors mean that the identification of this work as a Bernini self-portrait needs to be treated with reserve, although the painting may well be derived from a self-portrait.

There is therefore some evidence that, although the way Bernini wore his hair, beard and moustache apparently did change on occasion, his appearance was more consistent than it might seem. Hence we could argue, with Wittkower, that the thin moustache and the absence of the chin tuft in the early Galleria Borghese self-portrait mean that it predates the Leoni engraving.28 Wittkower, ‘Works by Bernini in the Royal Academy’, pp. 52–5. On the other hand, the hair in the Borghese picture is longer, more like that in the later portraits, pointing to a date after 1622 – though only shortly after, given the youthfulness of the sitter’s features. Such a date receives support from Herrmann Fiore’s arguments linking the Borghese self-portrait to the physiognomical explorations of his own features that Bernini made in his early years, especially for the statue of David, 1623–24, at the Galleria Borghese,29 Herrmann Fiore, ‘Tre ritratti dipinti’, cat. no. 18, repr. and for an associated painting at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Rome.30 ibid., cat. no. 19, repr. Herrmann Fiore’s observations lead her to date the Borghese self-portrait close to 1623.31 ibid., cat. no. 20; Hellmann Fiore, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 3, p. 296. But while Bernini’s gaze in this painting implies the artist’s intense scrutiny of his own features, the frowning and grimacing of the painted and the carved Davids are lacking, so that the relationship to these works is not so immediate as to preclude a dating prior to 1622. Also to be taken into account is Weston-Lewis’s plausible suggestion that a drawing of a youth, with neither chin tuft nor moustache, in the Museo Horne, Florence, is a Bernini self-portrait made when the artist was even younger, before he had grown a moustache (fig. 9).32 Weston-Lewis, in Weston-Lewis, p. 50. If it is indeed a self-portrait of a very young Bernini, this drawing, which displays the intense stare that characterises the later self-portraits, reinforces the possibility that the Borghese self-portrait – where the sitter reveals a similar intensity – was painted before 1622.

Perhaps the tidiest approach to the chronology is to suppose that the Borghese picture predates the Leoni engraving, and is datable to around 1620–21, when Bernini was aged twenty-two or twenty-three.

If the National Gallery of Victoria portrait is a Bernini self-portrait, then its resemblances to this, the earlier of the two Borghese self-portraits, mean that it must date from about this time.33 Devapriam, in Hoff, p. 16, following Hoff’s acquisition report, dates the picture ‘probably between 1615 and 1619’, on the basis of the apparent age of the sitter. Yet if the two paintings are compared more closely it becomes apparent that the Melbourne picture lacks both the intensity and the plasticity of the Borghese self-portrait. The sitter in the Melbourne painting does not engage the viewer in the direct, confrontational way that characterises Bernini’s self-portraits. The gaze of this sitter is softer, sliding away to the left as if nervous of catching the viewer’s eye too directly. This sitter is thoughtful and moody, less sure of himself than the Bernini of the Borghese painting. The role played by the hand touching the collar finds no counterpart in the secure Bernini self-portraits, which in most cases are head studies.

Physiognomically, too, the Melbourne painting has less in common with the accepted Bernini self-portraits than may at first appear to be the case, despite the angular chin and the similar turn of the head. Physiognomical analyses of portraits can be problematic, since in a portrait the effect of the whole often overrides the accuracy of the parts. This is especially true in the case of Bernini, who, as is well known, particularly in the context of his period in France when producing his portrait bust of Louis XIV, 1665 (Château de Versailles), idealised his portraits in order that they might better express the abstract qualities of the sitters.34 See Wittkower, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, no. 70, pp. 246–7, pl. 101. If there is a quality that his earlier self-portraits seem to be expressing, it is the vitality of the creative artist. Nevertheless, certain physiognomical constants do emerge. In the early Borghese self-portrait, where the face has the thinness of youth, the wedge shape of the jaw prevails over the swelling at the point of the narrow chin (fig. 2). The jawbones are quite straight, turning sharply into the chin. In the later Borghese self-portrait the jawline is sharp and concave (fig. 7). In the Uffizi portrait, in which the features are a little fuller and there is more flesh around the jaw, the line of the jawbones is straight. In the Melbourne painting, by contrast, although the line of the chin is short and straight, the chin swells more and has a marked cleft, while the jaw is convex, sweeping up to the hidden ear in a gentle arc.

Bernini’s nose, to judge from the early Borghese self-portrait and from the portrait by Castiglione, was somewhat aquiline, with a marked bump below the bridge. This attribute evidently displeased Bernini, and in most of his other self-portraits the nose has been straightened. Even so, in the later Borghese self-portrait and in the Uffizi picture an angle is indicated where the bridge meets the lower part of the nose, with an attendant sharp shadow above the corner of the sitter’s right eye. In the Melbourne picture there is no hint of such a discontinuity, the nose and its bridge being a single (and perhaps evasively modelled) form, which then swells into the slightly uptilted bulb of the tip of the nose.

Bernini’s secure self-portraits emphasise the flaring of the bridge between the eyebrows, and the modelling of the eyebrow ridges is precise, each eyebrow being rendered as though upon a clearly defined underlying form. In the Melbourne portrait these features are vaguely described, the ‘V’ where the eyebrows draw together overpowering the modelling of the bridge area.

In the self-portraits discussed here, the sitter wears a plain white linen collar attached to a dark costume (only in the Leoni engraving, where he is shown as a Cavaliere di Gesù Cristo, is Bernini differently attired). Such collars are of an austere type, which, under Spanish influence, replaced the elaborate ruffs of the cinquecento. In later portraits of Bernini, such as those by Baciccio, the collar, in accordance with changing fashions, is fuller than the earlier ones but retains their austerity. By the 1640s, under French influence, collars were often large, with a broad panel at the back and trimmed with lace points, and were not unlike the one worn by Bernini in the Leoni engraving, but deeper at the back. It is evidently a collar of this latter kind which the sitter in the Melbourne portrait wears, over dark sleeves and a leather buff coat. A similar costume is worn by Juan de Pareja in Diego Velázquez’s portrait, which was exhibited at the Pantheon in Rome in February 1650 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) (fig. 10). At the very least, therefore, the costume in the Melbourne picture implies a later dating than the c.1620–21 that is necessary if the sitter is to be identified, on the basis of age, as Bernini.

The traditional attribution of the portrait, going back to at least 1780, was to Velázquez.35 For all known earlier attributions and for provenance, see Devapriam, in Hoff, p. 16. Several portraits today accepted as Bernini self-portraits were formerly associated with the name of the Spanish master – a point noted in the context of the attribution of the Melbourne picture to Bernini.36 Hoff, acquisition report. Those who do not accept this attribution have tended to turn back to Spain: Tomory, for example, has tentatively suggested Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo (c.1613–1667), a pupil of Velázquez and an artist whose name is often suggested for problematic works associated with the master.37 Peter Tomory, letter to Emma Devapriam, 5 July 1991, National Gallery of Victoria files. Above all it is the sketchiness of the technique which has prompted the Velázquez connection, but the similarities should not be overstated. The carefully scraped-back sketchiness of Velázquez, designed for illusionistic effect, is somewhat different from the treatment displayed in the Melbourne painting, which is suggestive of the sketchiness of a rapid roughing-out.38 For Portrait of a Young Man, c.1650, at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC – a representative example of a Velázquez school portrait, which is comparable in size to the Melbourne painting but which exhibits a more ‘finished’ appearance – see J. Brown & R. G. Mann, Spanish Paintings of the Fifteenth through Nineteenth Centuries, Washington DC, 1990, pp. 120–1, repr. This painting has in the past been given to both Velázquez and Mazo, among others, and has also been thought to be a portrait of Mazo or of the artist Alonso Cano. The sitter wears a costume similar to that of the sitter in the Melbourne painting, and displays a similar turn of head and direction of gaze, but the glance engages with that of the spectator in a way that the Melbourne sitter’s does not. The treatment of the collar in the Washington picture takes as its point of departure the technique used by Velázquez to render the lace collar and cuffs in his portrait of Juan Calabazas, c.1637–39 (Prado, Madrid); for this portrait, see J. López-Rey, Velázquez, Cologne, 1996, vol. II, no. 83, repr. Nevertheless, an attribution to a Spanish, or Spanish-influenced, painter working in the 1640s or 1650s is the most plausible proposal so far, although the identity of this painter remains an open question. If the Melbourne painting is indeed a self-portrait – the three-quarter view is common to both portraits and self-portraits, but the angle of the shoulder, perpendicular to the viewer, is often a sign of a self-portrait – the identification of the artist will take on additional interest.

David Marshall, School of Fine Arts, Classical Studies and Archaeology, The University of Melbourne (in 2001).

Notes

1     See E. Devapriam, in European Paintings before 1800 in the National Gallery of Victoria, 4th edn, by U. Hoff, Melbourne, 1995, pp. 16–17. The present article is an extended version of my entry in European Masterpieces: Six Centuries of Paintings from the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia (exh. cat.), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2000, cat. no. 20.

2     Benedict Nicolson, letter to Ursula Hoff, 20 May 1976, National Gallery of Victoria files, gave the Melbourne picture to Bernini and described it as a self-portrait: ‘[N]obody in their senses could doubt that this is a real masterpiece by Bernini, done of his own face when he was still a very young man. I would say it dated from the early 1620’s’; Ursula Hoff, acquisition report, 1976, National Gallery of Victoria files, reported also the views of Denis Mahon, who gave the picture to Bernini (identity of sitter unconfirmed), and of Michael Levey and Jennifer Montagu, both of whom regarded the attribution to Bernini as very plausible (identity of sitter unconfirmed).

3     Ronald Cohen (Trafalgar Galleries, London), letter to Kenneth Hood, 8 March 1984: ‘[I]t seems to me that the technique owes much to the influence of Velazquez to whom your portrait was originally attributed … As Bernini himself would have been thirty-one in 1629 I feel that it is perhaps more likely that the painting is of another sitter (unless of course the painter was flattering himself) … P.S. I would have thought the painting datable after 1650 rather than before’; Irving Lavin (Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey), letter to Emma Devapriam, 21 August 1992: ‘I have always been skeptical about the painting – although I have never seen it, and it certainly belongs with the many pictures of this type, physiognomical and otherwise, the attributions and identifications of which go back and forth between Velázquez and Bernini. In this case, the frothy treatment of the lace collar and costume [reminds] me more of Fragonard than any of the paintings usually associated with Bernini!’; Emma Devapriam (Senior Curator of European Paintings, National Gallery of Victoria), letter to Irving Lavin, 10 September 1992: ‘I entirely agree with you that the treatment of the lace collar and costume is very different from any of the paintings associated with Bernini. Even the hair is too soft. In my opinion, in colouring, this painting is more Spanish than Italian. Recently … Dr. Angela Negro and Dr Claudia Tempesta [of the Galleria Borghese, Rome] came to our Gallery … Both … believed that [the portrait] is not by Bernini but perhaps by a Spanish painter’; Keith Christiansen (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), letter to Emma Devapriam, 12 November [1992]: ‘I should have thought, superficially, that it looks less like those Bernini portraits I know of in the Borghese than artists around Velázquez, but I really feel insufficiently informed to go any further than this comment’. All correspondence referred to here is located in the National Gallery of Victoria files.

4     P. Tomory & R. Gaston, Summary Catalogue: European Paintings before 1800 in Australian and New Zealand Public Collections, Sydney, 1989, no. 205, as circle of Bernini (?), self-portrait(?).

5     See, for example, A. Weston-Lewis & T. Clifford, ‘Portraits of Bernini, Portrait Drawings and Caricatures’, in Effigies and Ecstasies: Roman Baroque Sculpture and Design in the Age of Bernini (exh. cat.), ed. A. Weston-Lewis, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1998, pp. 47–63; K. Herrmann Fiore, ‘Tre ritratti dipinti da Gian Lorenzo Bernini nella Galleria Borghese’, in Bernini scultore: La nascita del Barocco in casa Borghese (exh. cat.), eds A. Coliva & S. Schiitze, Galleria Borghese, Rome, 1998, pp. 233–9; M. Fagiolo dell’Arco, K. Herrmann Fiore, F. Petrucci, S. Bruno, T. Montanan & L. Mochi Onori, in Gian Lorenzo Bernini: Regista del Barocco (exh. cat.), eds M. G. Bernardini & M. Fagiolo dell’Arco, Palazzo Venezia, Rome, 1999, cat. nos 1–18, pp. 295–307.

6     See A. Weston-Lewis, in Weston-Lewis, cat. no. 1; Fagiolo dell’Arco, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 2, p. 295. For Leoni, see C. R. Robbin, ‘Ottavio Leoni as a Painter: New Evidence from an Inventory of His House on via del Babuino’, Storia dell’arte, no. 100, 2000, pp. 84–93; H. W. Kruft, ‘Ottavio Leoni als Porträtmaler’, Storia dell’arte, no. 72, 1991, pp. 183–90.

7     See Fagiolo dell’Arco, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 1, p. 295.

8     See S. Schütze, ‘Arte liberalissima e nobilissima: Die Künstlernobilitierung im päpstlichen Rom – ein Beitrag zur Sozialgeschichte des Künstlers in der frühen Neuzeit’, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, vol. 55, no. 3, 1992, p. 339 n. 60.

9     R. Wittkower, ‘Works by Bernini in the Royal Academy’, Burlington Magazine, vol. XCIII, no. 575, January 1951, p. 52.

10     Weston-Lewis, in Weston-Lewis, cat. no. 1.

11     See Weston-Lewis, in Weston-Lewis, cat. no. 7, repr.; Mochi Onori, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 14, p. 303, repr. p. 57; Petrucci, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 15, pp. 303–4, repr. p. 58.

12     Wittkower, ‘Works by Bernini in the Royal Academy’, pp. 52–5. For subsequent views, favouring a dating around 1622, see M. Fagiolo dell’Arco & M. Fagiolo dell’Arco, Bernini: Una introduzione al gran teatro del barocco, Rome, 1967, no. 26, as 1622; M. Marini, in Trafalgar Galleries at the Royal Academy III (sale cat.), Trafalgar Galleries, London, 1983, p. 60, as c.1622; Weston-Lewis, in Weston-Lewis, p. 50, as slightly earlier than the Leoni engraving; A. Coliva (ed.), Velázquez a Roma, Velázquez e Roma (exh. cat.), Galleria Borghese, Rome, 1999, cat. no. 15, as generally dated c.1621–22.

13     See Weston-Lewis, in Weston-Lewis, p. 50.

14     See M. G. Bernardini, ‘“Il gran Michelangelo del suo tempo”: La vita, il personaggio’, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 4, p. 49, as by Bernini; Petrucci, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 4, pp. 296–7, as by Bernini.

15     Weston-Lewis, in Weston-Lewis, cat. no. 2, dates the drawing to the second half of the 1620s on the basis of the apparent age of the sitter. Petrucci, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 8, p. 298, repr. p. 52, dates to c.1635, however, another version of the drawing – a work that is in the Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica, Rome, and is now generally agreed to be a copy. The latter dating seems the more convincing of the two for the Ashmolean drawing.

16     Fagiolo dell’Arco, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 7, p. 298, repr. p. 52.

17     Petrucci, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 5, p. 297, repr. p. 50.

18     Herrmann Fiore, ‘Tre ritratti dipinti’, cat. no. 24, dated this picture c.1630–35 in 1998; she has subsequently proposed c.1635, citing the work of Fagiolo dell’Arco and Fagiolo dell’Arco, who suggested this date on the basis of biographical data (Herrmann Fiore, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 6, p. 298). I. Sgarbozza, in Coliva, cat. no. 17, gives a dating of c.1638.

19     Wittkower, ‘Works by Bernini in the Royal Academy’, pp. 52–5.

20     See Weston-Lewis, in Weston-Lewis, cat. no. 2.

21     Herrmann Fiore, ‘Tre ritratti dipinti’, cat. no. 22.

22     ibid., cat. no. 23, repr.

23     ibid., cat. no. 21, repr.

24     See R. Wittkower, Gian Lorenzo Bernini: The Sculptor of the Roman Baroque, 2nd edn, London, 1966, no. 31, pp. 199–200, reprs.

25     J. Thuillier, Vouet (exh. cat.), Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, 1990, cat. no. 10, repr., dates a Vouet self-portrait at the Musée Réattu, Arles, to c.1618–19, the more mature self-portrait at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, to c.1626–27 (cat. no. 20, repr.).

26     See Fagiolo dell’Arco, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 9, p. 299, repr. p. 53.

27     For a further exception – a picture now in a private collection and formerly with Trafalgar Galleries, London – see Marini, cat. no. 23, repr.; and his ‘Un contributo a Gianlorenzo Bernini “al dipingere … molto inclinator”’, FIMA antiquari, 1992, pp. 41–50. In this work the sitter holds dividers, with a palette and brushes nearby, being thus identified as both architect and painter. The costume, clean-shaven chin, handlebar moustache, and hair of the sitter are comparable with the same elements in the Ashmolean drawing. In the painting, however, the sitter’s forehead is taller and the chin lacks the assertive angularity of Bernini’s secure self-portraits, while the overall handling does not appear to be of a high quality. These factors mean that the identification of this work as a Bernini self-portrait needs to be treated with reserve, although the painting may well be derived from a self-portrait.

28     Wittkower, ‘Works by Bernini in the Royal Academy’, pp. 52–5.

29     Herrmann Fiore, ‘Tre ritratti dipinti’, cat. no. 18, repr.

30     ibid., cat. no. 19, repr.

31     ibid., cat. no. 20; Hellmann Fiore, in Bernardini & Fagiolo dell’Arco, cat. no. 3, p. 296.

32     Weston-Lewis, in Weston-Lewis, p. 50.

33     Devapriam, in Hoff, p. 16, following Hoff’s acquisition report, dates the picture ‘probably between 1615 and 1619’, on the basis of the apparent age of the sitter.

34     See Wittkower, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, no. 70, pp. 246–7, pl. 101.

35     For all known earlier attributions and for provenance, see Devapriam, in Hoff, p. 16.

36     Hoff, acquisition report.

37     Peter Tomory, letter to Emma Devapriam, 5 July 1991, National Gallery of Victoria files.

38     For Portrait of a Young Man, c.1650, at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC – a representative example of a Velázquez school portrait, which is comparable in size to the Melbourne painting but which exhibits a more ‘finished’ appearance – see J. Brown & R. G. Mann, Spanish Paintings of the Fifteenth through Nineteenth Centuries, Washington DC, 1990, pp. 120–1, repr. This painting has in the past been given to both Velázquez and Mazo, among others, and has also been thought to be a portrait of Mazo or of the artist Alonso Cano. The sitter wears a costume similar to that of the sitter in the Melbourne painting, and displays a similar turn of head and direction of gaze, but the glance engages with that of the spectator in a way that the Melbourne sitter’s does not. The treatment of the collar in the Washington picture takes as its point of departure the technique used by Velázquez to render the lace collar and cuffs in his portrait of Juan Calabazas, c.1637–39 (Prado, Madrid); for this portrait, see J. López-Rey, Velázquez, Cologne, 1996, vol. II, no. 83, repr.