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Portraiture. Italian Renaissance and Early Baroque. Word Slide. Leonardo da Vinci Raphael Bronzino Albrecht Durer Rembrandt Velazquez Rubens Jan van Eyck della Robbia Anthony van Dyck Fra Filippo Lippi Veronese. Renaissance Baroque Portraiture Triptych Two-dimensional

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Italian Renaissance and Early Baroque

Word slide

Word Slide

Leonardo da Vinci



Albrecht Durer




Jan van Eyck

della Robbia

Anthony van Dyck

Fra Filippo Lippi


  • Renaissance

  • Baroque

  • Portraiture

  • Triptych

  • Two-dimensional

  • Illusionistic

  • Donatrix

  • Genre

  • Physiognomy

  • Equestrian

  • Betrothal


A portraitis typically defined as a representation of a specific individual, such as the artist might meet in life. A portrait does not merely record someone's features, however, but says something about who he or she is, offering a vivid sense of a real person's presence.



a painting or carving consisting of three panels, often made as an altarpiece hinged together so that, when the smaller outer panels are folded, the middle part is entirely covered


The Annunciation Triptych, ca. 1425Robert Campin and Assistant (South Netherlandish, active by 1406, died 1444)South Netherlandish; Made in TournaiOil on wood Central panel 25 1/4 x 24 7/8 in. (64.1 x 63.2 cm); each wing 25 3/8 x 10 3/4 in. (64.5 x 27.3 cm) The Cloisters Collection, 1956 (56.70)


A fascination with the natural world dominates and the smallest details are meticulously rendered to reflect reality on a two-dimensionalplane.


Illusionisticeffects are enhanced by the technical innovation of overlaying thin translucent oil glazes on opaque layers. The resulting luminous, enamel-like surface achieves apparent depth, rich gradations of light, and a broad distribution of color values.


  • One of the hallmarks of European portraiture is a sense of reality, an apparent intention to depict the unique appearance of a particular person. Each portrait is thus meant to express individual identity, but as Erwin Panofsky recognized, it also "seeks to bring out whatever the sitter has in common with the rest of humanity" (quoted in Shearer West, Portraiture [Oxford, 2004], p. 24).


The profile view, which was favored in ancient coins, was frequently adopted in the fifteenth century, for instance, in Fra Filippo Lippi's picture of a woman at a window, with a young man peeking in.


The three-quarter face, which allows for greater engagement between sitter and viewer, was also widely favored. Petrus Christus used this format in his portrait of a Carthusian monk which places the sitter in a simply characterized interior, with a horizontal element like a windowsill at the bottom and a glow of light in the left background. Italian painters at the turn of the sixteenth century embraced and refined this formula.


Leonardo da Vinci's celebrated portrait of Mona Lisa (ca. 1503–5; Musée du Louvre, Paris), for instance, increases the sense of connection between sitter and viewer by placing the hands on the window ledge; the enigmatic smile departs from the perfect composure seen elsewhere.


Head of the Virgin

Head of a man in profile to left

Head of a Man in Profile to Left


Bronzino'sportrait of a young man.


Even greater magnificence is implicit in equestrian portraits, which also had Greco-Roman associations and were much favored in Renaissance and Baroque courts.


Albrecht Durer, Erasmus of Rotterdam


portrait of Allessandro Vittoria by Veronese


Rembrandt's portrait of the craftsman Herman Doomer


Velázquez's picture of his assistant Juan de Pareja


Rubens' seductive likeness of a woman who may have been his sister-in-law


Girolamo della Robbia made a ceramic portrait of Francis I


Rubens, His Wife Helena Fourment (1614–1673), and Their Son Peter Paul (born 1637), mid- to late 1630sPeter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577–1640)Oil on wood


Self-Portrait, possibly 1620–21Anthony van Dyck (Flemish, 1599–1641)Oil on canvas


Self-Portrait, 1660Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) (Dutch, 1606–1669)Oil on canvas

Suggested further readings

Suggested Further Readings

  • Brilliant, Richard. Portraiture. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991.

  • Pope-Hennessy, John. The Portrait in the Renaissance. New York: Pantheon, 1966.

  • West, Shearer. Portraiture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

  • Related exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC:

  • www.metmuseum.org and online features

     Special Exhibitions (including upcoming, current, and past exhibitions)

  • Art and Love in Renaissance ItalyFrom Filippo Lippi to Pierodella Francesca: FraCarnevale and the Making of a Renaissance MasterThe Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions

  • Other Online Features

  • The Art of Renaissance Europe: A Resource for Educators

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