Alfonso d'Este (1486–1534), Duke of Ferrara

Copy after Titian (late 16th or early 17th century)
Oil on canvas
50 x 38 3/4 in. (127 x 98.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Munsey Fund, 1927
Accession Number:
Not on view
comte Arthur de Vogüé, château de Commarin, near Dijon; his daughter-in-law, comtesse Charles de Vogüé, château de Commarin (?sold to Loebl); [Loebl, Paris; sold to Abdy]; Sir Robert Henry Edward Abdy, Newton Ferrers, Callington, Cornwall; [A. S. Drey, Munich, 1925–27, as by Titian; sold to MMA]
Hempstead, N. Y. Hofstra College. "Metropolitan Museum Masterpieces," June 26–September 1, 1952, no. 3 (as by Titian).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Venetian Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," May 1–September 2, 1974, no catalogue.

Toledo. Museo de Santa Cruz. "Carolus," October 6, 2000–January 12, 2001, no. 228.

August L. Mayer. "Tizianstudien." Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst, n.s., 2 (1925), pp. 279–84, fig. 8, as in a French private collection; attributes it to Titian and dates it to the late 1520s or early 1530s; tentatively identifies it with the picture included in Madrid inventories of 1636 [sic, for 1666] and 1686.

Georg Gronau. Letter to Mr. Drey. December 10, 1925, attributes it to Titian, identifying it with the original version of the portrait, subsequently presented by Alfonso d'Este to Charles V.

Bernard Berenson. Letter to Mr. Kleinberger. February 24, 1926, attributes it to Titian.

August L. Mayer. Letter to Bryson Burroughs. May 28, 1927, notes that he published the painting in 1925 [see Ref.] as by Titian, but that he is "not absolutely certain that this picture is the Madrid example".

"Expert Calls $200,000 Titian Here Unauthentic." New York American (April 22, 1927), p. ?, ill., reports that Libero Grassi has questioned the attribution to Titian, suggesting that it may be a work by Pellegrino da San Daniele (Martino da Udine, 1467–1547).

Bryson Burroughs. "The Portrait of Alfonso d'Este by Titian." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 22 (April 1927), pp. 98–101, ill. on cover [excerpt published in Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin 16 (May 14, 1927), pp. 98–99], identifies it with Titian's first portrait of Alfonso and dates it about 1523–25.

Harry B. Wehle. "Titian's Portrait of Alfonso d'Este." Arts 11 (May 1927), pp. 225–26, ill. p. 224 (detail) and frontispiece, identifies it with Titian's first portrait of Alfonso.

"A Lost Titian." Art Digest 1 (April 15, 1927), p. 6.

"Not a Titian?" Art Digest 1 (May 1, 1927), pp. 1–2.

"Thinks Painting Copy of a Titian." New York Times (June 9, 1927), p. 9.

A[dolfo]. Venturi. Storia dell'arte italiana. Vol. 9, part 3, La pittura del Cinquecento. Milan, 1928, p. 977 n. 1, attributes it to Dosso Dossi, calling it a copy after a lost work by Titian.

Georg Gronau. "Alfonso d'Este und Tizian." Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, n.s., 2 (1928), pl. XIII, identifies it with Titian's first portrait of Alfonso and dates it about 1523; publishes documents relating to the work.

Philip Hendy. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: Catalogue of the Exhibited Paintings and Drawings. Boston, 1931, p. 367, calls it and the version in the Palazzo Pitti, Florence, copies after Titian.

Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, pp. 255, 573, lists it as the original by Titian, finished in 1534, and calls the Pitti picture a copy by Girolamo da Carpi.

Wilhelm Suida. Tizian. Zürich, 1933, pp. 44, 157, pl. LXIX, attributes it to Titian, noting that he knows it only from a photograph.

N. Quilici. Rivista di Ferrara 1, no. 9 (1933), pp. 16–17 [see Ref. Zeri and Gardner 1973], considers it superior to the version shown in the Ferrara exhibition.

Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, pp. 219, 493.

Hans Tietze. Tizian: Leben und Werk. Vienna, 1936, text vol., pp. 138–39, 167; plate vol., p. 303, pl. 75, finds that extensive restoration makes it difficult to determine whether it is the original or a copy.

Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 192–93, ill.

William E. Suida. "Titian's Portraits: Originals and Reconstructions." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 29 (March 1946), p. 142, notes that the MMA and Pitti pictures "are not by Titian's own hand, but certainly based on his invention".

Hans Tietze. Titian: The Paintings and Drawings. 2nd, rev. ed. London, 1950, pp. 27, 387, fig. 75.

Rodolfo Pallucchini. Tiziano: Lezioni tenute alla Facoltà di Lettere dell'Università di Bologna durante l'Anno 1953–54. Bologna, [1953–54], vol. 1, pp. 147–48, states that the question of whether it is the original or a copy cannot be determined on the basis of a photograph, which does, however, reveal that the painting is of good quality and of the sixteenth century.

Gian Alberto Dell'Acqua. Tiziano. Milan, 1955, pp. 70, 116, fig. 65, attributes it to Titian.

Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Venetian School. London, 1957, vol. 1, p. 189.

Edgar Wind. Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance. London, 1958, p. 97, fig. 62, suggests that it may be a copy after Titian; discusses the iconography of the cannon.

Francesco Valcanover. Tutta la pittura di Tiziano. Milan, 1960, vol. 1, p. 98, pl. 206B [English ed., "All the Paintings of Titian," New York, 1960, vol. 2, pp. 123–24, pl. 206B], as Attributed to Titian.

Felton Gibbons. Dosso and Battista Dossi, Court Painters at Ferrara. Princeton, 1968, p. 256, states that "the portrait in New York is better than the one in Florence and has been accepted as Titian's own by some, but not all students".

Francesco Valcanover in L'opera completa di Tiziano. repr., 1978. Milan, 1969, p. 104, no. 116, ill., as doubtful.

Rodolfo Pallucchini. Tiziano. Florence, 1969, vol. 1, pp. 61–63, 261; vol. 2, pl. 184, states that direct observation has convinced him that it is a contemporary copy [see Ref. Pallucchini 1953–54]; dates it about 1525–28.

Cecil Gould. The Studio of Alfonso d'Este and Titian's Bacchus and Ariadne. London, [1969], p. 3, pl. 1, attributes it to Titian.

Harold E. Wethey. The Paintings of Titian. Vol. 2, The Portraits. London, 1971, pp. 3, 16–18, 94–95, no. 26, pl. 40, attributes it to Titian and dates it about 1523–25; identifies it with the portrait given to Charles V, calling it "most likely the original in a faded condition rather than a copy, as sometimes believed"; creates a presumed history of ownership prior to its appearance in the collection of the comtesse de Vogüé.

Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 202, 513, 607, as a copy after Titian.

[John Pope-Hennessy]. "The Unquestioned Superiority of Titian." Times Literary Supplement (February 25, 1972), p. 222, rejects Wethey's [see Ref. 1971] attribution to Titian, calling the painting a copy by Rubens.

Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Venetian School. New York, 1973, pp. 82–83, pl. 96, note that "although its quality is high, the brushwork and handling are not Titian's"; state that the pigment seems more recent than the first half of the sixteenth century and that the handling is close to Rubens's early style, adding that Rubens is known to have copied the portrait of Alfonso in Madrid.

Justus Müller Hofstede. Letter to Margaretta Salinger. March 29, 1973, judging from a photograph, doubts that the painting is by Rubens.

Wolfgang Stechow. Letter to Margaretta Salinger. March 30, 1973, from a photograph, doubts the attribution to Rubens.

Johannes Wilde. Venetian Art from Bellini to Titian. Oxford, 1974, p. 244, pl. 206, attributes it to Titian and dates it to the first half of the 1520s; identifies it with the painting given to Charles V.

Harold E. Wethey. The Paintings of Titian. Vol. 3, The Mythological and Historical Paintings. London, 1975, p. 24 n. 138, p. 264, in his addenda to volume 2 [see Ref. Wethey 1971], notes that an attribution to Rubens has been suggested [see Ref. Zeri and Gardner 1973], and that this attribution has been rejected by Von Sonnenburg, Müller Hofstede, and Held.

Sylvie Béguin, ed. Le Studiolo d'Isabelle d'Este. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1975, p. 7, no. 13, exhibits a photograph of this painting as after Titian.

David Rosand. Titian. New York, 1978, p. 22, calls it a copy.

Mina Gregori, ed. Tiziano nelle gallerie fiorentine. Exh. cat., Palazzo Pitti. [Florence], 1978, pp. 326–28, under no. 95, calls it a copy by Rubens.

Alessandro Ballarin. Dosso Dossi: la pittura a Ferrara negli anni del ducato di Alfonso I. Cittadella (Padua), 1994–95, vol. 1, fig. 172 (detail); vol. 2, fig. 661, as a sixteenth-century copy after a painting by Titian of about 1523.

Rona Goffen. Titian's Women. New Haven, 1997, pp. 62, 294 n. 68, fig. 38, associates the original version with Titian's portrait of Alfonso's mistress Laura dei Dianti (private collection) of about 1523–25, although noting that the two works cannot have been conceived as actual pendants.

Concetto Nicosia in Sovrane passioni: le raccolte d'arte della Ducale Galleria Estense. Ed. Jadranka Bentini. Exh. cat., Galleria Estense, Modena. Milan, 1998, p. 148, under no. 2, calls it a seventeenth-century copy.

Matteo Mancini in Carolus. Exh. cat., Museo de Santa Cruz. [Toledo], 2000, p. 431, no. 228, ill. (color).

Filippo Pedrocco. Titian. New York, 2001, p. 136, under no. 72.

Paul Joannides. "Titian and Michelangelo/Michelangelo and Titian." The Cambridge Companion to Titian. Ed. Patricia Meilman. Cambridge, 2004, p. 195, fig. 29.

Giorgio Tagliaferro et al. Le botteghe di Tiziano. Florence, 2009, p. 29, call it a later copy after a lost portrait that they date to 1516, during Titian's stay at the Este court in Ferrara.

Alessandro Ballarin, with the collaboration of Marialucia Menegatti, and Barbara Maria Savy. Leonardo a Milano: Problemi di Leonardismo milanese tra Quattrocento e Cinquecento, Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio prima della Pala Casio. Verona, 2010, vol. 2, p. 927; vol. 4, pl. 968, calls it a sixteenth-century copy after a lost work of about 1523; relates the composition to the figure of Jean de Dinteville in Holbein's painting "The Ambassadors" (1533; National Gallery, London).

The sitter was the son of Ercole I d'Este, whom he succeeded as duke in 1505, and the brother of the famous Isabella d'Este. He was both a military man and a courtier, a patron of Titian and of the poet Ludovico Ariosto.

This painting is a copy after Titian's first portrait of Alfonso d'Este, which was recorded by Vasari as having been admired by Michelangelo, who saw it in Ferrara in 1529. Later the portrait was given by Alfonso to Charles V, King of Spain, who kept it in Bologna for awhile and then took it to Spain. It is included in inventories of the Royal Palace in Madrid of 1666 and 1686, but there is no mention of it after the seventeenth century. A copy by Rubens was included in the inventory of his estate (no. 58).

Titian painted a second portrait of Alfonso in about 1534. This painting is now lost, but a copy exists in the Palazzo Pitti, Florence.

A painting in the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, depicting the head and shoulders, is an old copy after the first version of the portrait.