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Venetian Nobleman, mid-16th century

Domenico Tintoretto

Italian, 1560-1635
Oil on canvas
51 x 36-1/2 in. (129.5 x 92.7 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
F.1965.1.063.P
© The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

The earliest documentation for this picture is its presence in the important Manchester exhibition “Art Treasures of the United Kingdom” of 1857. The painting was lent, along with a number of other paintings, by James Hamilton, the 1st Duke of Abercorn, from his estate in Ireland; it was likely his grandson, the 3rd Duke, who sold it to Duveens in 1922.

At the Manchester exhibition, the picture was entitled “Portrait of a Senator” and was attributed to the most famous painter in the Robusti family, Jacopo (1518/19–94). Once it entered the Duveen stock, the sitter was identified as Paolo Paruta (1540–98), a Venetian historian and diplomat, who had been named Procurator of St. Mark’s in 1596 and was also the Superintendent of Fortresses. The landscape beyond was thought to depict Zara (Zadar), the capital of Dalmatia (which was under Venetian rule at various times in its history); the galleons were said to represent a siege of the city. A Duveen presentation folio for the painting conjectured that the scene was a logical insertion into a portrait of Paruta, who, as the Superintendent of Fortresses, “must have known well this outpost of the Republic.”

During the time Duveen owned the painting, reactions from art historians about the quality of the painting ranged from “Magnificent portrait” to “the most important portrait by Domenico Tintoretto”. However, later comments responding to Mr. Simon’s requests for opinions were unequivocally critical.

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