Rogier van der Weyden (Netherlandish, ca. 13991464)
Oil on wood; Overall 12 1/2 x 8 3/4 in. (31.8 x 22.2 cm): painted surface, each side 11 3/4 x 8 in. (29.8 x 20.3 cm)
The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931 (32.100.43)
The sitter for this striking portrait is Francesco d'Este, illegitimate son of Leonello d'Este, ruler of Ferrara. In 1444, Francesco was sent to the Netherlands, where he received his education and military training at the court of Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy. He was educated with Philip's son, Charles de Charlerois (later Charles the Bold), and became a permanent chamberlain to the duke, acting frequently as an envoy to Italy. This portrait was painted in the Netherlands about 1460, when Francesco was around thirty years old. The hammer and ring he holds may be prizes won for a jousting victory, or symbols of his office and power. On the verso of the panel are painted the splendid coat of arms and crest of the Este family, quartered with the honor bestowed on the house of Este in 1432 by Charles VII of France. Above and below the armorials is the inscription, which reads, in part: "entirely yours, marquis of Este, Francesco." This apparent dedication suggests that the portrait was not kept by the sitter but was presented by him to a close acquaintance or member of the court as a gift of friendship. The portrait was painted by Rogier van der Weyden, who undertook a number of portrait commissions for members of the Burgundian court, while the verso was probably painted by a workshop assistant.