Portrait of a Prelate

Portrait of a Prelate

mid-1500s

Girolamo da Carpi

(Italian, ca. 1501-1556)

Oil on canvas

Framed: 171 x 138.5 x 12.5 cm (67 5/16 x 54 1/2 x 4 15/16 in.); Unframed: 140.4 x 108 cm (55 1/4 x 42 1/2 in.)

Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt Fund 1947.210

Description

Girolamo da Carpi, a court artist from Ferrara, was influenced by the grace and intellectual artificiality found in Italian Mannerist art, seen in the flowing S-curve of the sitter's clothing and his delicate and attenuated fingers. The sitter's dress identifies him as a prelate, a high-ranking member of the Catholic clergy. His costume includes a dark mantel with red lining over a gauzy, white rochet and the three-cornered hat, called a biretta. In his right hand he holds a book whose cover displays an elephant, standing in water, looking at the moon. This motif symbolized purity, and the sitter's virtue is further emphasized through the book's inscription, MUNDOS LIBENTER ASPICIT, which means, "The moon beholds the pure with pleasure." While several noble Renaissance households used this design for their family emblems, none have yet proven related to the prelate in this painting and so his identity remains unknown.

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