For faster navigation, this Iframe is preloading the Wikiwand page for Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione.

Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione

Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione
Yearc. 1514–1515
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions82 cm × 67 cm (32 in × 26 in)
LocationLouvre, Paris
AccessionINV 611

Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione is a c. 1514–1515 oil painting attributed to the Italian High Renaissance painter Raphael. Considered one of the great portraits of the Renaissance, it has an enduring influence. It depicts Raphael's friend, the diplomat and humanist Baldassare Castiglione, who is considered a quintessential example of the High Renaissance gentleman.


The portrait was produced as a result of Raphael's friendship with Castiglione, whose ascent in courtly circles paralleled that of the artist. They were close friends by 1504, when Castiglione made his second visit to Urbino, as Raphael was gaining recognition as an artist in the humanist circle of the city's ducal court.[1] Raphael was commissioned by Guidobaldo da Montefeltro in 1505 to paint a picture for Henry VII; Castiglione traveled to England to present the finished painting to the king.[1] It is possible that Castiglione later served as a "scholarly advisor" for Raphael's The School of Athens, and that the depiction of Zoroaster in that fresco may be a portrait of the courtier.[1]

Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione may have had a practical and intimate purpose. Castiglione left his family behind when he went to Rome, and he wrote a poem in which he imagined his wife and son consoling themselves with the picture during his absence.[2]

The composition is pyramidal. It's one of only two Raphael's paintings on canvas (it was considered before as originally painted on a wood panel, and later transferred to canvas[3]). Copies produced in the 17th century show Castiglione's hands in full, suggesting that the picture was subsequently cut by several inches at the bottom[3] (at a later date researchers determined it has not been cut). Castiglione is seated against an earth-toned background and wears a dark doublet with a trim of squirrel fur and black ribbon; on his head is a turban topped by a notched beret.[4] The attire indicates that this was painted during the winter, likely that of 1514–1515, when Castiglione was in Rome by appointment of Guidobaldo da Montefeltro to Pope Leo X.[4] The lightest areas are the subject's face seen nearly head-on, a billow of white shirt front at his chest, and his folded hands, which are mostly cropped at the bottom edge of the canvas. Castiglione is seen as vulnerable, possessing a humane sensitivity characteristic of Raphael's later portraits.[5] The soft contours of his clothing and rounded beard express the subtlety of the subject's personality. In his The Book of the Courtier Castiglione argued on behalf of the cultivation of fine manners and dress.[5] He popularized the term sprezzatura, which translates roughly to "nonchalant mastery", an ideal of effortless grace befitting a man of culture. The concept eventually found its way into English literature, in the plays of Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare.[6]

The picture's elegance of execution is consistent with the attitude of the subject.[7] Art historian Lawrence Gowing noted the counter-intuitive handling of gray velvet (actually a fur) as contrary to an academic modeling of form, with the broad surfaces banked in rich darkness and the fabric shining most brightly as it turns away from the light.[7] For Gowing, "The picture has the subtlety of baroque observation but the stillness and noble contour of classic painting at its peak."[7] The portrait's composition and atmospheric quality suggest an homage to the Mona Lisa, which Raphael would have seen in Rome.[4] Yet the Castiglione portrait transcends questions of influence; art historian James Beck wrote that "The Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione stands as a final solution for single male portraiture within the Renaissance style...."[8]

Notwithstanding shifts in the critical appraisal of Raphael's work, the painting has enjoyed consistent admiration from other artists.[7] Titian was strongly influenced by this portrait, and may have first viewed it in Castiglione's home in Mantua.[2][7] The Venetian master's Portrait of a Man (Tommaso Mosti?) is generally seen as owing a strong compositional debt to Raphael's painting, and also reflects Castiglione's influential advice regarding the restrained elegance of attire recommended for courtiers.[2][9][10] In 1639 Rembrandt drew a sketch of the painting while it was being auctioned in Amsterdam,[11] and subsequently referenced the composition in several self-portraits. A copy of the painting, now in the Courtauld Institute of Art, was painted by Peter Paul Rubens. Both Rembrandt's and Rubens's versions display Baroque flourish, quite different from the original painting's sober restraint.[3] In the 19th century Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres chose a frame for his Portrait of Monsieur Bertin much like that which adorned Raphael's painting, perhaps indicating Ingres's ambitions, while also underscoring the paintings' similarities of coloration and extraordinary illusionism.[12] At the turn of the 20th century Henri Matisse copied the painting, and Paul Cézanne exclaimed of Raphael's portrait: "How well rounded the forehead is, with all the distinct planes. How well balanced the patches in the unity of the whole...."[7]

Now in the Louvre, the painting was acquired by Louis XIV in 1661 from the heirs of Cardinal Mazarin.[7]

Influenced paintings

On screen

Portrait de l'ami en homme de cour. Portrait de Balthazar Castiglione, film by Alain Jaubert from Palettes series (1994).

See also


  1. ^ a b c Loudon, 43
  2. ^ a b c Jones and Penny, 162
  3. ^ a b c Beck, 160
  4. ^ a b c Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione (1478–1529), Louvre
  5. ^ a b Jones
  6. ^ Cunningham, Reich, 319
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Gowing, 170
  8. ^ Beck, 156
  9. ^ a b Ilchman, 201
  10. ^ Writing about the Titian portrait, Serena Padovani disagreed, calling the connection to Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione "rather dubious". Titian: Prince of Painters, 188. Venice, Marsilio Editori, 1990.
  11. ^ Wallace 1968, p. 107.
  12. ^ a b Tinterow, 305
  13. ^ a b Ackley, 308
  14. ^ White, 200


  • Ackley, Clifford S. Rembrandt's Journey: Painter•Draftsman•Etcher. Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 2003. ISBN 0-87846-677-0
  • Beck, James H. Raphael. New York, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1976. ISBN 0-8109-0432-2
  • Cunningham, Lawrence S., Reich, John J. Culture & Values, Volume II: A Survey of the Humanities with Readings. Cengage Learning, 2009
  • Gowing, Lawrence. Paintings in the Louvre. New York, Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1987. ISBN 1-55670-007-5
  • Ilchman, Frederick, et al. Titian•Tintoretto•Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Florence. Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 2009. ISBN 978-0-87846-739-6
  • Jones, Jonathan. Baldassare Castiglione, Raphael, The Guardian. 12 September 2003.
  • Jones, Roger; Penny, Nicholas. Raphael. New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1983. ISBN 0-300-03061-4
  • Loudon, Lynn M. "Sprezzatura" in Raphael and Castiglione, Art Journal, Vol. 28, No. 1, Autumn 1968.
  • Tinterow, Gary, et al. Portraits by Ingres: Images of an Epoch. New York, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1999. ISBN 0-8109-6536-4
  • Wallace, Robert (1968). The World of Rembrandt: 1606–1669. New York: Time-Life Books.
  • White, Christopher, et al. Rembrandt by himself. Yale University Press.
{{bottomLinkPreText}} {{bottomLinkText}}
Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione
Listen to this article

This browser is not supported by Wikiwand :(
Wikiwand requires a browser with modern capabilities in order to provide you with the best reading experience.
Please download and use one of the following browsers:

This article was just edited, click to reload
This article has been deleted on Wikipedia (Why?)

Back to homepage

Please click Add in the dialog above
Please click Allow in the top-left corner,
then click Install Now in the dialog
Please click Open in the download dialog,
then click Install
Please click the "Downloads" icon in the Safari toolbar, open the first download in the list,
then click Install

Install Wikiwand

Install on Chrome Install on Firefox
Don't forget to rate us

Tell your friends about Wikiwand!

Gmail Facebook Twitter Link

Enjoying Wikiwand?

Tell your friends and spread the love:
Share on Gmail Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Buffer

Our magic isn't perfect

You can help our automatic cover photo selection by reporting an unsuitable photo.

This photo is visually disturbing This photo is not a good choice

Thank you for helping!

Your input will affect cover photo selection, along with input from other users.


Get ready for Wikiwand 2.0 🎉! the new version arrives on September 1st! Don't want to wait?