By 1572 Passerotti was the pre-eminent artist in Bologna and was commissioned to portray Pope Gregory XIII himself, though the pose of the sitter in that work, today in Gotha, is a little more conventional than that of the present work, as one might expect for a papal portrait.2 Giulio's pose in the present work, however, is absolutely characteristic of Passerotti's portraiture in the mid-1570s, with the distinctive maroon background lending such richness to the scene. A similar half-turned body, the sitter's mannered left hand raised and pointing mid-conversation, a glistening sword hanging from his hip, is found in the Portrait of a man with a dog in Poitiers (fig. 1).3 So too is the pose found in the portrait from a few years later in Leipzig (fig. 2).4 Neither of those two portraits can boast sitters quite as handsome as Giulio, nor such expensive gold-embroidered silk clothes, described with the care and detail so typical of Passerotti's interest in color, texture, and surface.
With his right hand Giulio very deliberately holds up his over-garment to reveal a gold medal on which we find an image of the warrior Saint George slaying the dragon.5 In 1603 Giulio was to die without issue and left to the city of Bologna the sum of 600 scudi, which was used to issue such a gold medal worth 50 scudi to the winner of a joust held annually in Piazza Maggiore in Bologna in the early afternoon of the Sunday before Lent, to encourage young Bolognese noblemen to join the military.
1. Gregory XIII was not elected Pope until 1572, the year after the date given upper left, so the part of the inscription which describes Giulio's achievements must post-date 1571 by perhaps a couple of years.
2. See A. Ghirardi, Passerotti, Rimini 1990, pp. 179-80m cat. no. 35, reproduced in color plate V.
3. Ghirardi 1990, pp. 169-70, cat. no. 19, reproduced.
4. Ghirardi 1990, pp. 247-48, cat. no. 74, reproduced in color plate XXI.
5. The reverse is recorded as showing a heraldic flag bearing two keys and the inscription: July Franchini munus ("gift of Giulio Franchini").
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