Though the identity of the sitter remains unknown, Bedoli conveys a clear sense of this gentleman's character. Unlike the sitters in his other portraits, who glance to one side, the gentleman here gazes directly at the viewer, fixing us with a stare that is at once severe and benign. The carved arm of the chair on which he rests his elbow, however, provides a certain sense of distance and lends him an air of dignified detachment (though pentimenti visible around the sitter's sholders imply that he may originally have been turned further towards the viewer). His dress suggests that he may belong to the legal profession, a notion that seems to be corroborated by his posture and clasped hands, almost as if he is listening to and contemplating a case.
Stylistically this portrait is comparable to several of Bedoli's works from the early 1540s. The Portrait of a Philosopher, sold at Christie's, London, 8 July 2005, lot 69, also depicts a bearded gentleman set against a neutral background, the overall palette restricted to monochromes. In both these works Bedoli lends particular focus to the sitters' hands, which are highly distinctive - in contrast to the tapering fingers found in Parmigianino's portraits, Bedoli paints the fingers and nails of his sitters in a much more substantial, dry, and almost geometric fashion. He uses light to define the modelling of the face and the individual hairs of the beard of these men - a feature also evident in the Portrait of a tailor, in the Museo e Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte, Naples;2 the monumental, seated pose is akin to the Portrait of an Antiquarian (Bartolomeo Prati) in the Galleria Nazionale, Parma.3
The present portrait was presented by David Ekserdjian as an autograph work by the artist in a paper entitled 'Vent'anni dopo: postille alla monografia di Mario Di Giampaolo', given at a conference on Bedoli held at Viadana on 6 May 2017, which will be published in due course.
1 The inventory of circa 1680 from the Palazzo del Giardino in Parma, for example, lists a number of portraits, several of the descriptions of which match features of the present painting; see M. di Giampaolo, Girolamo Bedoli 1500-1569, Florence 1997, p. 223.
2 Inv. no. 120; see Giampaolo 1997, p. 137, cat. no. 41.
3 Inv. no. 333; see Giampaolo 1997, p. 139, cat. no. 42.
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