6
6
Sebastiano Luciani, called Sebastiano del Piombo
PORTRAIT OF A MAN IN ARMOUR, SAID TO BE IPPOLITO DE' MEDICI
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
1,000,0001,500,000
LOT SOLD. 925,000 GBP
JUMP TO LOT
6
Sebastiano Luciani, called Sebastiano del Piombo
PORTRAIT OF A MAN IN ARMOUR, SAID TO BE IPPOLITO DE' MEDICI
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
1,000,0001,500,000
LOT SOLD. 925,000 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Old Masters Evening Sale

|
London

Sebastiano Luciani, called Sebastiano del Piombo
VENICE CIRCA 1485 – 1547 ROME
PORTRAIT OF A MAN IN ARMOUR, SAID TO BE IPPOLITO DE' MEDICI

Provenance

Count Giuseppe Canera di Salasco, Villa Franceschini Pasini Canera di Salasco di Arcugnano, Vicenza, Italy; 

His deceased sale, Milan, Finarte, 25 February 1986, lot 103 (as Venetian School, 17th century, Portrait of a Warrior);

Where acquired by the present owner.

Literature

A. Ballarin, 'Un nuovo ritratto su lavagna di Sebastiano del Piombo', in Nuovi Studi, Rivista di arte antica e moderna, vol. 21, 2015, pp. 71–80, reproduced in colour pls XV, XVI, and XVII and figs 108–09, 114, 121, 124, 130 and 132–33 (as depicting Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici);

A. Cerasuolo, 'Osservazioni sulla tecnica di Sebastiano del Piombo', in Nuovi Studi, 21, 2015, pp. 81–86; 

P. Baker-Bates, ''Uno nuovo modo di colorire in pietra': Technical Experimentation in the Art of Sebastiano del Piombo', in P. Baker-Bates and E. M. Calvillo (eds), Almost Eternal: Painting on Stone and Material Innovation in Early Modern Europe, Art and Material Culture in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, vol. 10, April 2018, pp. 53, and 64, reproduced p. 54, fig. 1.4 (incorrectly listed by the publisher as attributed to Sebastiano);

P. Baker-Bates, 'Technical Experimentation in the Art of Sebastiano del Piombo: Further Thoughts', forthcoming (as by Sebastiano del Piombo). 

Catalogue Note

Painted on slate in the first half of the 1530s, this portrait by Sebastiano del Piombo is an extremely rare addition to his corpus of works. Sebastiano was one of the foremost figures of the Italian High Renaissance: he was a pupil of Giorgione, an ally of Michelangelo, and a rival to Raphael. The picture is also one of the very first paintings on slate, since Sebastiano was the pioneer in the use of this novel and unusual support. The artist’s Venetian formation in the ambit of Giovanni Bellini and Giorgione imbued him with a sense of colour which he was to blend seamlessly with more classical elements that he later encountered in Rome. He had moved there in 1511 in the retinue of the Sienese banker Agostino Chigi and it was in the Città Eterna that he came into contact with Raphael and Michelangelo, forming a very close friendship with the latter and on numerous occasions making use of his drawings and cartoons for his own painted works. After Raphael’s death in 1520, Sebastiano was the most celebrated painter in Rome, employed by both the aristocracy and successive popes. He excelled in particular in portraiture, a field in which Giorgio Vasari specifically described him as having no equal.

The portrait reworks Sebastiano's earlier masterpiece (fig. 1) from 1510–12 at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford.1 Shown half-length, a bearded man in armour gazes directly at the viewer, handsome, confident and powerful. It is one of the best portraits of the Italian High Renaissance and helped establish Sebastiano's reputation. The early history of the Wadsworth picture is not known, so we cannot know whether Sebastiano had direct access to it while working on the subsequent slate or whether, more likely, he made use of an earlier drawing. Painted some twenty years after the Wadsworth portrait, the present work on slate shows how Sebastiano's style had evolved. The design now zooms into the head and shoulders alone and, in keeping with the aesthetic mood of the 1530s, a more mannered approach to the execution is evidenced by the elongated neck and the intensity of expression. Another example of Sebastiano reworking an earlier portrait was recently found in the Doria Pamphilj collection: in the case of the latter, Sebastiano's 1525 three-quarter-length portrait of the Genoese Admiral Andrea Doria, housed in the same collection, was used as the prototype on which the later slate was based and slightly altered in mood, just as in the present work.2 A further example of the artist taking a detail of an earlier portrait and reworking it on slate is the unfinished portrait of Clement VII, in Naples, which reproduces just the head of the half-length portrait on canvas of the same sitter at the the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.3

Sebastiano painted on a wide range of supports during his long career, including canvas and panel and in the medium of fresco. Among his most famous works are the frescoes at San Pietro in Montorio in Rome, as well as those painted for Santa Maria della Pace, Rome, and now at Alnwick Castle.4 Arguably his most important contribution to the field, however, was the introduction of stone as a support.5 The earliest mention of Sebastiano's use of stone dates to 8 June 1530 in a letter from Vittore Soranzo, the Venetian papal secretary, to Pietro Bembo, the future cardinal:

'You should know that our little Sebastiano the Venetian has found the secret with which to paint in oils on marble in the most beautiful fashion which will make his paintings little less than eternal. As soon as the colours are dry these unite with the marble as if they were turned to stone; every test has been tried and it has proved durable.'

Sebastiano took to his new support with gusto: an inventory of the contents of the artist's studio after his death lists no fewer than 37 paintings on various types of stone. The Nativity, from circa 1530, in Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome, is painted on peperino, a local Roman stone, while the Ubedà Pietà, from 1534–39, is painted on slate, which would have come from further afield in Liguria.6 Several other religious works from the 1530s are painted on slate, including various treatments of Christ carrying the Cross and the Madonna del Velo in Naples.7 Other examples of portraits on slate survive, including one of the Florentine politician Baccio Valori at the Palazzo Pitti (fig. 2), two of Pope Clement VII, as well as the unfinished double portrait of Pope Paul III and a nephew, in Parma.8 The portrait of Valori in Florence shows a similar economy of detail to the present work. The directness of the expression and the personality of the sitter are the focus, with the clothing – or in the case of the present work, the armour – just elements to contextualise the wealth or status of the sitter. The flashes of detail seen in the fold of Valori's sleeve are in the present work echoed in the light reflected in the armour. 

The sitter is undoubtedly the same man as the one seen in the portrait formerly in the Piasecka Johnson collection in Philadelphia.9 Professor Alessandro Ballarin has recently proposed that he should be identified as Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici, the nephew of Pope Leo X and cousin of Pope Clement VII. He was to become papal legate as well as Vice-Chancellor of the Holy Roman Curia, perhaps the most lucrative post in all the curia. Between 1524–27 he ruled Florence on behalf of his cousin Giulio, when in 1523 the latter was elected Pope Clement VII. Ballarin specifically compares the likeness of the sitter with Titian's Portrait of Ippolito de' Medici in Hungarian costume from 1532 at the Pitti, Florence, as well as the double portrait of Monsignor Mario Bracci and Ippolito de' Medici by Girolamo da Carpi, at the National Gallery, London.10 The present sitter certainly shares similarities with the depictions of Ippolito, though perhaps the hair, the cheek bones and the jawlines do not entirely match.

The attribution has also been endorsed by Keith Christiansen and David Ekserdjian.

1 C. Strinati (ed.), Sebastiano del Piombo, 1485–1547, exh. cat., Rome 2008, pp. 148–49, cat. no. 23, reproduced in colour.

2 A.G. De Marchi, Collezione Doria Pamphilj, Catalogo generale dei dipinti, Cinisello Balsamo 2016, pp. 341–42, cat. nos FC671 and FC791, both reproduced in colour.
3 For the slate head, see Ballarin 2015, plate 117.
4 Strinati in Rome 2008, pp. 248–52, cat. no. 65, reproduced.
5 For a fuller discussion of Sebastiano's pioneering work on stone, see P. Baker-Bates in M. Wivel (ed.), Michelangelo & Sebastiano, exh. cat., London 2017, pp. 80–85.
6 Strinati in Rome 2008, pp. 226–29, cat. no. 55, reproduced in colour, and pp. 240–41, cat. no. 61, reproduced in colour.
7 For the three versions of Christ carrying the Cross see Strinati in Rome 2008, pp. 236–37, cat. no. 59, reproduced; pp. 238–39, cat. no. 60, reproduced; and pp. 244–45, cat. no. 63, reproduced.
8 Ballarin 2015, plate 111.
9 Strinati in Rome 2008, pp. 198–99, cat. no. 42, reproduced in colour, and Ballarin 2015, pl. 125.
10 Ballarin 2015, plates 119 and 120.

Old Masters Evening Sale

|
London