Lot 56
  • 56

Tiziano Vecellio, called Titian

1,500,000 - 2,000,000 USD
1,762,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • Tiziano Vecellio, called Titian
  • Portrait of an Admiral, probably Francesco Duodo (1518-1592), half length, wearing armour

  • oil on canvas
  • 34 7/8 by 30 1/4 in.; 88.6 by 77 cm.


Probably Prince Trivulzio, Milan;
Bonomi collection (inv. no. 106), Milan, until 1933;
Thence by descent in Monte Carlo until sold to a collector in the 1960s;
Thence by descent to his son, by whom sold, London, Sotheby's, 3 July 1997, lot 63, for £1.1m, where acquired by the present owner.


New York, Salander O'Reilly Gallery, Rembrandt and the Venetian Influence, 3 October - 18 November 2000, no. 6.


W. Suida, Tizian, 1933, pp. 83, 166 and 187, reproduced plate CLXXb;
G. Adriani, Anton van Dyck: Italienisches Skizzenbuch, 1940, p. 28, under no. 107;
R. Fisher, Titian's Assistants During the Later Years, Harvard Ph.D. 1958, London and New York 1977, pp. 103-4, reproduced fig. 93 (as possibly by Palma Giovane, though knowing the painting only from Suida's published photograph);
F. Ilchman, in Rembrandt and the Venetian Influence, New York, Salander O'Reilly Gallery, 3 October - 18 November 2000, pp. 22-27, and p. 70, cat. no. 6, reproduced in colour.

Catalogue Note

Although published by Suida in 1933 as a late portrait by Titian, this painting was entirely ignored by the more recent literature on the artist. At the time of the painting's last appearance at auction the identity of the sitter still remained a mystery. Suida resorted to a generic identification - that of a "Venetian Admiral" - whilst Tietze and Tietze-Conrat suggested the name of Sebastiano Venier1, as did Fischel before them2, which is equally unsatisfactory.3

The sitter's identity was unknown at the time of the painting's last appearance at auction in 1997 but Frederick Ilchman has since convincingly argued that the admiral can be identified as Francesco Duodo (1518-1592). This identification is based on a portrait by a follower of Tintoretto in the Museo Storico Navale, Venice,4 where Duodo is shown older in years and wearing the robes of a Procurator; a position he held from 1587 until his death five years later (see Fig. 1). That portrait bears the Duodo coat-of-arms and the intiials 'F.D.', thereby confirming the identity of the sitter. There is also a portrait bust of Duodo by Alessandro Vittoria in the Ca' d'Oro, Venice (see Fig. 2). Duodo enjoyed great fame as a military commander, and not just in Venice. He was a key figure at the Battle of Lepanto, leading the Venetian galleons to victory on 7 October 1571: contemporary paintings and prints of the battle show Duodo at the centre of the action. If the sitter is indeed to be identified with Duodo, this portrait was probably commissioned from Titian after Duodo's return to Venice in 1573. Duodo was a collector of ancient coins and he is known to have commissioned an altarpiece from Tintoretto for the church of Santa Maria Zobenigo (also known as the church of Santa Maria del Giglio), where he is buried.  As was first pointed out by Paola Rossi, the figure of San Francesco di Paola in that altarpiece bears some resemblance to Francesco Duodo himself (though somewhat idealised); an opinion later re-iterated by Frederick Ilchman.5  As well as playing an active part in the Battle of Lepanto, Duodo held a number of important government and military posts from the 1560s onwards, such as Provveditore a Corfu; that is, Supervisor of the Eastern Mediterranean fleet of the Venetian navy. He was appointed governor of a number of cities in the Venetian terra firma, such as Udine and Bergamo, and was also chosen as Patrono all'Arsenale; that is, the superintendent of naval construction and supplies at the Arsenal. Whilst serving his term running the Venetian shipyards, Duodo experimented with new methods of equipping and maneuvering heavy galleons. Such innovations led to the Christians' victory over the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto; a victory that led to celebration both in Venice and throughout Europe. Duodo was subsequently elected to the Council of Ten and during the plague of 1576, during which Titian died, he was appointed Minister of Health.

Late Titian portraits are extremely rare; none are known to have been painted after 1570 (the approximate date of the Triple Portrait in the National Gallery, London). In style and technique this painting is remarkably close to Titian's late mythological paintings; in particular those dating from the 1570s. As in the case of his Diana and Actaeon in the National Gallery, London, the X-radiograph of this portrait reveals numerous and important pentimenti (see Fig. 3). The head has been shifted to the right, the hand's position changed, and the outline of his left shoulder redefined; all of which demonstrate that Titian made changes to the composition directly onto the canvas. The artist reserved the space where the moustache would eventually be painted but the entire metal gorget at the sitter's neck was painted before later covering it with the beard. The hilt of the sword was originally higher and slightly to the left of its present position, and the pattern of folds on the cloak were altered at a late stage in the portrait's execution. The contour of the cloak was reduced at the shoulder and this correction is now partly visible to the naked eye as a pentimento. In addition, Fig. 3 reveals numerous small marks, laid down repeatedly, above and around the head of the sitter. These had been assumed to be Titian's own thumbprints, supporting the story relayed by Boschini in the 17th century about Titian's late painting technique:  "E il Palma mi attestava per verità che nei finimenti dipingeva più con le dita che non pennelli."6  Closer study of the painting during and after its restoration in 1997-98, however, revealed that these marks were almost certainly made with a square-edged brush and were possibly the results of an earlier restoration.

A drawing relating to this picture, in black chalk and white heightening on faded blue paper, is in the British Museum, London.7  This drawing appears to have been done after the painting, despite a minor shift in the position of the head, and was attributed to Palma il Giovane in the past.8  Although not by Palma himself, the use of black chalk and the style of the drawing would indicate a Venetian artist in the circle of Palma and this would further suggest that the painting was still in Venice towards the end of the 16th century.

Another drawing after Titian's portrait, in pen and ink wash (Fig. 4), by Sir Anthony van Dyck is in his Italian sketchbook, formerly at Chatsworth and now in the British Museum.9  The portrait appears in the sketchbook alongside other drawings after paintings by Titian and Raphael. Van Dyck inscribed the drawing with an attribution to "Titian" and the copy is faithful to this painting, though the sitter's right arm has been slightly lengthened and his shoulders broadened. The sketchbook was compiled during Van Dyck's trip to Italy (1621-1627), and his route may be traced through the provenances of the paintings he copied. The copy after Raphael's Portrait of Leo X and his Nephews on the same page as the present portrait drawing was in Florence, Uffizi, by 1589 and must have been seen there by Van Dyck. Given that Van Dyck visited Florence in 1623, after his Venetian sojourn (August to November 1622), it is possible that the Titian portrait was no longer in Venice at this time. On folio 108, the facing page in the sketchbook, there is a drawing after Titian's famous Portrait of Ranuccio Farnese which remained in the Farnese collection in Rome until an unknown date (it was still in Palazzo Farnese in Rome in 1644 but is recorded in Parma in an inventory of 1680). Since it is known that Van Dyck travelled to Florence in January 1623 and in the same year to Rome, until October or November whereupon he proceeded to Genoa,10 the drawing after the present painting probably dates from 1623, and it is therefore likely that the present picture was either in Florence or Rome at that time, possibly in a private collection to which Van Dyck had access.

The later provenance of Titian's portrait remains a mystery. According to family tradition the painting belonged to the noble Trivulzio family of Milan. Much of the Trivulzio collection, including the celebrated library and paintings by Mantegna, Titian and others, was left to the city of Milan in 1927 whilst a number of paintings were transferred at around the same time to other private collections; one such example is Titian's Portrait of the Doge Francesco Venier now in the Fondación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. The present portrait was in the collection of Gino Bonomi by 1933, when the painting was first published by Suida, having been transferred to Bonomi's Monte Carlo home in 1931. It was sold from this collection at an unknown date.

We are grateful to Prof. Paul Joannides for confirming that, after recent firsthand inspection of the painting, he believes the portrait to be by the elderly Titian, possibly completed by a member of his studio.

1. See H. Tietze and E. Tietze-Conrat, The Drawings of the Venetian Painters in the 15th and 16th Centuries, New York 1944, 1970 ed., p. 207, who discuss a related drawing (see below).
2. O. Fischel, Tizian, Stuttgart 1904, under plate 25, whilst discussing a related drawing (see below).
3. Portraits of Sebastiano Venier by Tintoretto demonstrate that his facial features are strikingly different from those of the sitter represented here: Venier had hair on the top of his head, his eyes were more widely set, his ears were larger, his moustache and eyebrows more horizontal, and his forehead flatter (compare, for example, the portraits in P. Rossi, Jacopo Tintoretto: I Ritratti, Milan 1994, pp. 142-45, cat. nos. 32 and 33).
4. Inv. no. 952; 107.5 by 86 cm. A detail is reproduced by F. Ilchman, under Literature, p. 25, fig. 18.
5. See Rossi, in R. Pallucchini and P. Rossi, Tintoretto. Le opere sacre e profane, Milan 1982, vol. I, p. 254, cat. no. A113, reproduced vol. II, fig. 735, where Rossi dates the altarpiece to 1581-82 and attributes it to Domenico rather than Jacopo Tintoretto on stylistic grounds. Borghini (1584) had described the altarpiece as a work by Jacopo; an attribution later adopted by Ridolfi (1648).
6. M. Boschini, Le ricche minere della pittura veneziana, 1674.
7. Inv. no. 5211,61.
8. Tietze and Tietze-Conrat, op. cit., p. 207, no. 989, as by Palma.
9. See Fischel, op. cit., reproduced plate 25, as after a lost Titian; and G. Adriani, under Literature, folio 107v, reproduced, as after the present painting.
10. For the chronology see C. Brown, Van Dyck Drawings, London 1991, p. 13.