Lot 25
  • 25

Jacopo da Ponte, called Jacopo Bassano

700,000 - 900,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Jacopo da Ponte, called Jacopo Bassano
  • Portrait of a gentleman, half length, in full armor, holding a partesan, a broad sword at his hip
  • oil on canvas


William Fox-Strangways (1795-1865), Fourth Earl of Ilchester, Redlynch, Somerset, by whom bequeathed to his nephew;
Henry Edward Fox-Strangways (1847-1905), Fifth Earl of Ilchester, in Melbury House, Dorset from 1871, by descent to his son;
Giles Stephen Holland Fox-Strangways (1874-1959), Sixth Earl of Ilchester, Holland House;
Sale, Christie's London 21 June 1968, lot 26 (as Paolo Veronese), where acquired by;
T.S. Lewis;
With Wildenstein, New York, 1970.


Birmingham, The Barber Institute of Fine Art, On Loan, October 2010 - November 2011 (as Jacopo Bassano).


A. Fox-Strangways, Catalogue of Pictures Belonging to the Earl of Ilchester, London 1883, p. 97, cat. no. 148 (as "Anonymous");
Gile Holland Fox-Strangways, Addenda and corrigenda to Catalogue of pictures, Holland HouseLondon 1939;
G. Fiocco, Giovanni Antonio Pordenone, Pordenone 1969, vol. I, p. 172-173, reproduced vol. II, p.114, fig, 84b (as Pordenone);
F. Heinemann, "Neue Beiträge zum Werk Paolo Veronese" in Pantheon 39, 1981, pp. 210-211 (as Paolo Veronese, dating to 1558);
C. Cohen, The Art of Giovanni Antonio da Pordenone: Between Dialect and Language, Cambridge 1996, vol. I, p. 168, cat. no. 61.


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This painting is restored quite effectively and looks extremely well as a result. The restoration certainly takes into consideration the quality of the piece. The canvas is lined, and the painting is retouched and well varnished. The retouches are very accurate and well matched; they address a weakening of the paint layer that is very commonly found in paintings from this period. In some areas, this weakening may be exacerbated by some abrasion and over-cleaning. There are numerous retouches throughout the picture, but they need not be re-visited as they are well applied. Credit must be given to the restorer for the high level of the quality of the conservation. The only possible area of weakness is the hand in the lower left, which has received a good deal of wear and tear over the years. In my opinion, the restoration here does not take into account the structure of the hand. In contrast, the hand in the lower right is in beautiful state.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

A rare portrait by Jacopo da Ponte, called Bassano, this magnificent canvas is an important and recent addition to the painter’s oeuvre.   Bernard Aikema dates the present work to circa 1554, aligning it chronologically with the artist’s Portrait of a Bearded Man in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (inv. no. 69.PA.25, see fig. 1), completed four years earlier.  Though here the sitter is shown half length rather than head and shoulders, the angle of the head, the melancholic expression and rounded, watery eyes cast away from the viewer, instantly recall the Getty picture.

Bassano here convincingly conveys the personality of the unknown sitter; his gaze, averted from the viewer, is distant yet attentive, fixed on an object or person out of view, his eyebrows raised slightly in concentration, drawing faint lines across his forehead and temples.  The expert handling of light, applied in touches of white to form sparkling flashes on the breast plate, sleeve and hip serves not only to interpose the otherwise subtle tonality of the picture but is used to naturalistically indicate the minutely dented surface of the hand beaten metal.  The flesh and beard are vivacious and warm against the minimalist background and the rich crimson doublet, exposed at the crook of his elbow beneath the vambrace, provides contrast to the dark metal and cool architectural walls. 

Though perhaps better known today for his characterful religious and genre scenes, we know from Bassano’s biographer, Carlo Ridolfi that portraiture was also an important part of his output: “Fù egli non meno valoroso nel far de’ritratti, riducendoli al naturale, essendo avvezzo à cavare le cose dal vivo…” Ridolfi’s list of sitters is woefully short however and the artist’s only surviving account book, known as Il Libro Secondois but one of the four original volumes and casts no light on the portraits from the latter part of his career.   A recent clean revealed decoration on the center of the breastplate, showing a snarling lion which may at one point have formed part of a coat-of-arms, now illegible which may have assisted in identifying the figure.  A certain amount can be deduced however from other elements of the sitter's costume: rather than the decorative armor, worn for tournaments and often shown in Venetian portraiture, the sitter here wears field armor, his left hand gracefully resting on his hip draws the eye to the ornamental hilt of his broad sword and in his right he grips a partigiano (partisan), a ceremonial spear traditionally carried by the prince’s Guards of Honor.  The fire-gilded decoration, ceremonial spear and ornate sword suggest the sitter was no ordinary infantryman but a man of considerable means and perhaps a Field Captain or Guard of Honor serving the Serenissima. 


1.  C. Ridolfi, Le Miraviglie dell’Arte, D.F. von Hadeln, ed., Berlin 1914, I, p. 401, translates: “He was no less valued for his portraits, they were naturalistically rendered, [Bassano] being accustomed to drawing things from life…”