Wednesday, January 06, 2010

09/10 Academic Decathlon French Revolution Art Selection #15 - Portrait of a Young Man

Portrait of a Young Man, ca. 1760–65, Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, Oil on canvas, 97 1/8 x 69 1/4 in. (246.7 x 175.9 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Pompeo Girolamo Batoni was an accomplished artist who painted altarpieces, historical and allegorical paintings and portraits. He painted portraits of many important dignitaries in Europe - patrons from Austrian and Russian courts, royal courts of Europe and portraits of Pope Clement XIII and Pope Pius VI. Since he was located in Rome, it was not unusual for these aristocratic patrons to pop into his studio when they visited Rome. You might say he was a favorite stop on the Grand Tour. He painted portraits of them posed in standing positions, leaning against an antiquity, decked out in their royal finery. His skill is seen in these portraits - even though he painted many, each one was unique.

This young man is not identified, but it is thought that he is French. He is shown in a luxurious space. The objects shown in the painting were deliberately selected to show that the subject was not only educated about the discoveries of the time, but also had the tools in his possession. Books, paper and pens are strewn casually demonstrating this devotion to studies and writing. The people of this time period were enthralled with the work of the Romans. We see guidebooks to Rome in the painting. Rome was an essential stop on the Grand Tour - the city and its history were pivotal to a well-rounded education. Word got around. His reputation became inexorably linked with the Tour, and the wealthy patrons were led to his studio where hundreds of people sat for their portraits and contributed to his illustrious career.

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