Francesco de’ Rossi also known as Salviati Portrait of a Gentleman (Self-portrait)


Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte




585 x 755 mm



historical period


Exhibit Artwork

Artwork Details

The painting depicts a young gentleman in half-length, in slightly turned position. The man is wearing a dark hat and an elegant black Spanish-style suit, embellished with a thin collar in white lace with a white shirt underneath that emerges from the sleeves. His hair is short, while the thick dark beard frames the young and beautiful face. Based on the inscription on the back of the painting and comparing this portrait with the printed effigy of Francesco Salviati on the artist’s biography in Giorgio Vasari’s Lives, critics have tended to identify the gentleman as Francesco De’ Rossi himself, better known as Francesco Salviati, who was about thirty years old when he painted the work in the 1540s’. The painter had just returned his hometown Florence after a training trip to Rome, and he is portrayed here with great elegance and refinement. Behind him you can see a light-colored architecture which becomes darker in the rectangle in the center to highlight the beautiful head, while on the right his hand holds the hilt of a sword, an attribute that refers to the nobility and creates a reflection thanks to a refined play of light and shadow. The high quality of the work made critics believe that it had been painted by Raphael until the 19th century and it was already in the collections of the Farnese family in Rome since the 17th century. The painting could be the same described by Vasari in the life of his friend Salviati as “a self-portrait in oil, made by his very natural hand” as also confirmed by the great realism and naturalism with which he represented himself. His face is turned towards the viewer, and he is looking directly at them with slightly melancholic look. This noble figure represents culture and refinement that were the typical of the Tuscan artist’s character according to his contemporaries. In 1644 the work was attributed to Andrea del Sarto and it was mentioned in the inventory of the collection of Palazzo Farnese in Rome, where it was on display in the second as “a painting on panel with carved and gilded frontispiece frame of studs and walnut, with an ancient portrait with a sword in hand, perspective with pillars and door, by the hand of Andrea del Sarto”. The painting was also described in the inventories of the Farnese house in 1653, with the same attribution to Andrea del Sarto as a “portrait of a man dressed in black with a small collar and a cap on his head and a sword in his hand”. In 1672 the painting was in Parma, in the seventh chamber of Palazzo del Giardino, called the chamber of Paul III in homage to Pope Farnese. A few decades later, in 1708 the painting was located in Palazzo della Pilotta, also in Parma, where it remained until 1734 when it was moved to Naples. In that year the entire Farnese collection was passed to Bourbons through Elisabetta, the last descendant of the noble family and mother of Charles of Bourbon, who was crowned king of Naples in 1734. He moved the collection to the palace of Capodimonte in Naples.

Artist Details

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Francesco was born and raised in Florence, where he was artistically influenced by the workshop of Andrea del Sarto and the works of Michelangelo. Francesco was very young when he started his training in the Tuscan capital, which he completed in Rome, where he went in 1531.

In Rome he became familiar with the works of Raphael, whose style still dominated the Roman art scene, even though he had been dead more than ten years. In Rome he made the Stories of St. John the Baptist for Palazzo Salviati, the Visitation for the oratory of San Giovanni Decollato and he worked on the chapel of the Margraves of Brandenburg in the church of Santa Maria dell’Anima, where combined the robustness of the Florentine style to a more graceful and elegant Mannerist style, which was influenced by Perin del Vaga, the most elegant of Raphael’s students.

Around 1539 Salviati stayed in Parma, the following year in Venice, and already in the early 1540s’ he had returned to Florence, where he was commissioned to paint frescoes with the Stories of Furio Camillo in the Hall of Justice in Palazzo Vecchio. In these decorations he strengthened the Mannerist elegance with sinuous lines and twists, which had certainly been influenced by the examples of Parmigianino he had seen in Emilia.

However, the robust Florentine tradition, which in those years was evident in the elegant but powerful Mannerist works of his friends, Giorgio Vasari and Bronzino, reminded him of his origins, and from that moment his works were more plastic, inspired by the examples of Michelangelo as well as Rosso Fiorentino and Pontormo. In this period, he made large paintings, such as the Deposition for the refectory of Santa Croce, the Charity (Uffizi Galleries, Florence) and the Three Fates (Palatine Gallery, Florence).

In 1541 Salviati left Florence, where he would never return again. He traveled to Rome, where he died in 1563 after a trip to France between 1556-1557, and where he left fresco decorations in Palazzo Farnese, Palazzo della Cancelleria and Palazzo Sacchetti.

Collection Details

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The collection of Capodimonte has the origins in the refined and elegant collection of the Farnese family. The first assemblage was formed in 1534 thanks to the initiative of Alessandro Farnese (1520-1589) and Pope Paul III, both interested in ancient objects (conserved today in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale of Naples) and the most important artists of the period.

In 1734 Charles III of Spain took the throne and inherited mother Elisabetta Farnese’s collection which was moved from Rome to Parma during the 18th century. In this occasion he felt the need to find a suitable location for the collection.

The construction of the Capodimonte building on the hill started in 1738 and it was used both as a residence and as a gallery. The place was first only visited by famous persons, such as Johann Winckelmann, Antonio Canova and Marquis de Sade.

The museum was inaugurated in 1957, thanks to the insistence of Ferdinando Bologna Raffaello Causa, opening to the public extensive collection of 2900 paintings, 150 sculptures, 17700 objects of decorative art, 26000 drawings, extended over 12000 square meters and divided into 114 rooms.

During the 18th century, the collection was enriched with the works commissioned by the sovereigns of the Bourbon family, but the lootings by French troops in 1799 marked the beginning of decline as its function as a museum.

In the 19th century the building was mostly used as a residence. French general Joachim Murat lived in the building with his wife and they brought new furnishing and interior decorations to Capodimonte.

Only after the arrival of the Savoys and thanks to Annibale Sacco, the new era of the museum started: the art objects which were spread in various residences of the Bourbon family were collected and moved to Capodimonte and there was a new attention to contemporary figurative production of art.

For this reason, there are two main groups in the collection. The Farnese collection includes the portraits of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, Giorgio Vasari and Andrea del Sarto by Raphael, portrait of Bernardo de’ Rossi by Lorenzo Lotto, portraits of Paul III and Paul III with his Grandsons Alessandro and Ottavio Farnese and Danae by Titian, Portrait of Antea by Parmigianino and the cartoons by Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci and pictorial cycles of Carracci, donated in 1600 by Fulvio Orsini. The second collection includes the historical pieces of Neapolitan art from circa 1200 to 1700. Among them are the works by Simone Martini and Colantonio’s St. Jerome, an example of the lively and rich Aragon period, and the works of foreign influence such as Pinturicchio’s Assumption of the Virgin. The 17th century was considered as the golden era of Neapolitan art, influenced by the works of Caravaggio and his followers. From this era there are Caravaggio’s Flagellation from 1606-1607, Ribera’s Drunken Silenus, Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith and Holofernes, Guido Reni’s Atalanta and Hippomenes and Mattia Preti’s St. Sebastian.

The current layout of the museum is a result of the series of restorations in the 1980s’ and 1990s’ which determined the division of the collection onto three floors. The ground floor includes the educational rooms, the mezzanine floor holds the department of drawings and prints, the Farnese collection, the Borgia collection and the royal apartment are in the first floor and finally on the second floor the Neapolitan gallery, the D’Avalos collection, the 19th century gallery and the photographic gallery.