Lorenzo Lotto Portrait of Ludovico Grazioli


Fondazione Cavallini Sgarbi




715 x 865 mm



historical period


Exhibit Artwork

Artwork Details

On the occasion of LA MILANESIANA 2019, founded and directed by Elisabetta Sgarbi, the DAW (Digital ArtWork) of LORENZO LOTTO’s painting “Portrait of Ludovico Grazioli” will be exhibited at BIG – BORSA ITALIANA GALLERY (gallery of the Italian Stock Exchange), in collaboration with CINELLO AND SAVE THE ARTISTIC HERITAGE. The painting by Lorenzo Lotto “is dated around 1551, based on its stylistic approach” (M. Lucco, Il ritratto interiore 2005, p. 189, n.2) in a period of intense production of the elderly painter and at the same time a crucial period for his life choices. In fact, on 8 September 1554 he became an oblate of the Holy House and on 21 November of the same year the “Cardinal of Carpi [...] perpetual protector” accepted the offerings of all the “present and future things”, among them the paintings (Pittori a Loreto 1988, pp. 46-48) but only two years after Lorenzo Lotto died. As regards the history of collecting, the portrait was first found in the collection of Marquis of Sligo, in Westport, Ireland, then in 1946 it was auctioned in Amsterdam and subsequently entered the collection of Senator E. C, Loeff in Bahia, Brazil, where Berenson saw it. The painting’s whereabouts are unknown until in 1997 it reappears in New York. Shortly after it became part of the Cavallini Sgarbi collection. The canvas was made known by Berenson (1955, p. 72; Id. 1957, p. 100) as a work by Lotto that dates to 1518; In the same year, Bianconi cautiously inserted it among the advanced attributions by the American scholar without making a precise verdict (Bianconi 1955, p. 79). The only unreasonably disagreeing opinion is that of Giordana Mariani Canova, who rejected the attribution in 1975 and identified the figure in the portrait as a Venetian senator (Mariani Canova 1975, p. 123). In the following years the critics didn’t comment on the work, until Mauro Lucco tried to bring to light not only the precise date, but also the identity of the figure (Lucco 2003, pp- 73-75; M. Lucco, Il ritratto interiore 2005, p. 189, n. 2). The scholar based his findings on stylistic details and dated the work to 1551, pointing out a series of details comparing them to other signed works from the same period: “the hands are nervous and sensitive, made with the same vibrating strokes, almost like in a watercolor painting, as in the altarpiece of Mogliano; the beautiful face and the very moving eyes; the rose that appears in the bottom of the altarpiece of San Francesco al Monte di Jesi from 1526, preserved today in the local museum, and the medallions of the 15 mysteries of the rosary in the altarpiece of Cingoli, from 1539. There you can see also a window opening to the evening sky, with the last glow on the horizon, and a path of clouds, almost certainly influenced by the works of Bassano. Furthermore, the style of the pink wall is similar to the exedra wall in the Mogliano altarpiece”. Not only that, another similarity can be find in the look of the figure to the left of Jesus in Christ and the Adulteress which “is placed above the episcopal chair in the chapel of the church choir since the 16th century” in Loreto, painted by Lotto between 1553 and 1555 (Pittori a Loreto 1988, p. 322). According to Lucco, Berenson’s decision to date the work around 1519 would be explained by the writing on the plaque on the canvas “PRO POSTERIS MEMORIA /PATRIS. / ANNO / M. D. IXI I IXI I.” – which is certainly modified afterwards and for this reason void of any basis of truth. Lucco does not consider Berenson’s chronology, and he makes a series of comparison with other works dated between 1542 and 1543, but none of them is relative to those mentioned in these years in Libro di spese diverse (book of expenses). Therefore “if, as I believe, 1551 is the most probable date [...] there is no doubt that, with the text, the context of the work is funerary; stating that the person was portrayed to be remembered by his heirs” (Lucco 2003, p. 75). Lucco’s advanced comparisons with supposed Portrait of Giovanni Taurino, vicegerent of Ancona mentioned in Libro dei conti in August 1551, now preserved in Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, and Batista Balestrier de la Rocha Contrada of the Capitoline Museums of Rome, mentioned in November of the same year, are consistent and leave “little possibility for a different identification” (M. Lucco, Il ritratto interiore 2005, p. 189) other than the nobleman from Ancona, Ludovico Grazioli. He contacted the artist, to whom he had also lent money before, and asked him to make a portrait of him “he greatly needed to leave his heirs a memory of himself, so they could see his face” (as clearly stated on the plaque) promising a great reward (note of 10 October 1551 in Libro di spese diverse, De Carolis 2017, p. 204). The elderly artist was probably tardive with the consignment and the client soon died, which led the heirs to dispute the agreed price “reducing it with the excuse of repaying the loan, to a tenth of the expected reward” (Lucco 2003, p. 75). This makes it a post mortem portrait, a sort of a visual testament of Grazioli’s “last wishes”, all concentrated in his melancholic and sad gaze.[Antonio D’Amico] Bibliography: Berenson 1955, p. 72; Bianconi 1955, p. 79; Berenson 1957, p. 100; Mariani Canova 1975, p. 123; Lucco 2003, pp. 73-75; M. Lucco, in Il ritratto interiore 2005, p. 189, n. 2; M.R. Valazzi, in Simone De MaΩistris 2007, p. 164, n. 27; A. D’Amico, in Scoperte nelle Marche 2008, pp. 80- 83, n. 24; C. Frigerio, in Gli occhi di CaravaΩΩio 2011, pp. 74-75, n. 1.9; A. D’Amico, in Il Ωiardino seΩreto 2013, pp. 40-43; A. D’Amico, in Teoría de la belleza 2014, pp. 62- 63; A. D’Amico, in Le stanze seΩrete 2016, pp. 82-83; De Carolis 2017, pp. 204, 354.

Artist Details

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Known as restless and itinerant artist, Lorenzo Lotto was born in Venice where he probably trained under Alvise Vivarini, or in the workshop of Giovanni Bellini and then in that of Giorgione da Castelfranco, and he showed great interest in Nordic painting – visible in particular in the realism of his first works – which had been introduced to local painters thanks to Albrecht Dürer, who stayed in the Lagoon, and through the print trade.

At the beginning of the 16th century, young Lotto began to travel in northern and central Italy, engaged in several important commissions.

In Treviso in 1505, he painted the portrait of Bishop Bernardino de’ Rossi (Naples, Museo di Capodimonte) pinned to the city’s cultural life and in the same year he worked on the great altarpiece with the Holy Conversation for the church of Santa Cristina in Tiverone, where he was inspired by the monumental examples of the works of Giorgione and bellini, however, with a restless spirit in the figures, in particular in their attitudes and expressions, typical of Lotto’s painting.

In 1506 the artist stayed in Recanati, region of Marche, in the service of Dominican friars, who commissioned him a large painting for their church, the Polyptych of Recanati (Civic Museum) with his typical restless figures and contrast of light that dramatized the scene. From Recanati Lotto moved to Rome to work on the decoration of the Vatican Rooms. A few years after these paintings were covered by Raphael’s frescoes. In Rome Lorenzo saw the works of Domenico Beccafumi and Sebastiano del Piombo, but above all those of Michelangelo and Raphael, whose greatness impressed him so much that he literally ran away from the city and traveled to Perugia, Firenze and Jesi, in Marche, and once again to Recanati. Here he painted other works, such as the Transfiguration, strongly influenced by Raphael, although pervaded by the usual restless atmosphere, which reflects the character of the artist, who was constantly disturbed and never tranquil.

After a stay in Bergamo, where he painted the Marinengo altarpiece (1513-16) for the church of San Bartolomeo, characterized by a more placid tone compared to his previous works, Lotto devoted himself to the decoration of the oratory of Trecore Balneario, close to Bergamo, with frescoes. Here, in fact, the nobleman Giovanbattista Suardi commissioned him some frescoes for the family oratory. In 1524 the artist worked on the decoration, focused on the stories of female saints – Catherine, Maddalena, Brigida and Barbara – and on Christ’s victory over evil, foretold by prophets and sibyls.

While still in Bergano, Lotto worked on the designs for the decoration of the inlay of the choir in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. He stayed again in Venice and in the Marche region, where he worked on the Crucifixion of St. Justus (Macerata, and on the famous Annunciation from 1534 (Recanati, Museo Civico) and on the complex representation of Madonna of the Rosary. After having made further journeys between Venice, Ancona and Marche, in 1554 Lotto moved to Loreto and became an oblate at the Holy House, to which he gave all his earthly possessions. Here he painted his last works, such as the Presentation at the Temple (Loreto, Palazzo Apostolico) in which perhaps he portrayed himself as the bearded man at the top right.

Lotto died before July 1557. After that date, the painter’s activity is no more documented.

Collection Details

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The Cavallini Sgarbi Foundation was founded in 2008 by the couple Caterina “Rina” Sgarbi and Giuseppe “Nino” Sgarbi and their daughter and son, Elisabetta and Vittorio.

It is located in Ro Ferrarese, in their family home, which is now owned by the Elisabetta Sgarbi Foundation and it houses hundreds of works of art – paintings and sculptures from the 13th to the 20th century – that have been acquired in more than thirty years of passionate collecting.

The Cavallini Sgarbi Foundation promotes culture and research and works in collaboration with public and private institutions, organizes exhibitions inspired by rigorous scientific projects. The museum activity includes preservation, valorization and the possible increase of the art collections. The Foundation encourages the art education through training activities and support studies on the history of medieval and modern art with a particular attention to minor contexts and Italian artistic geography.

In addition to its art collection, the Foundation preserves a remarkable library, with sources of art and local stories, starting from the 16th century. For the will of its founders, the works of the collection and the library are accessible to art enthusiasts and scholars.

After having acquired, since 1976, 2800 titles of the 3500 works listed by Julius Schlosser in his Letteratura Artistica, Vittorio Sgarbi understands that “paintings and sculptures could be more convenient and enjoyable than the rarest book”. This illumination came from his encounter with Mario Lanfranchi, a master collector, the first of many persons he met after abandoning the university dogma that led him to “look artworks as spiritually universal goods, only materially unavailable”.

Thus, in 1983 while crossing San Domenico di Niccolò dell’Arca, Sgarbi decides that he would no longer “buy things that are possible to find, whose existence could be presumed, but things that were not known to exist for their unusual nature, or things that were even unthinkable”.
As he himself says “the hunt for paintings has no rules or goals, it is unpredictable. You don’t find something you’re looking for; you look for what you can find. Sometimes it is far beyond desire and expectations”. From this unstoppable impulse, which was closely connected to the love for beauty and the homeland, from this “rhapsodic, original collecting, that aspires to exclusive relationships with artworks as if they were living persons” arose a real summa of Italian art, between painting and sculpture, from the 13th century to our days: a cultivated assortment that reflects the broad and multifaceted culture of those who have found, acquired, studied and ultimately protected the precious pieces that built it.