For the full overview of the artist’s career, see Saint Francis
). Although Barocci was, above all, a groundbreaking creator of altarpieces and devotional works, he was also accomplished as a portraitist. In this arena he did almost all of his work for his patron in Urbino, Duke Francesco Maria II della Rovere, his family, and his court. Giovan Pietro Bellori, the artist’s earliest biographer (1672), mentioned a few of his sitters—friends as well as nobles and ecclesiastics—all of them directly tied to the court at Urbino (see Emiliani 2008, vol. 1, p. 67). The most spectacular of Barocci’s portraits shows the duke in armor (the breastplate of which is owned by The Met (2008.638.2
)) with his helmet and shield (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence; another version is in the collection of the Duke of Northumberland, Alnwick Castle). Barocci probably painted it around 1571–72, after the duke bravely fought in the battle of Lepanto against the Ottomans. Other significant portraits include the considerably later Portrait of Monsignor Giuliano della Rovere
(Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) which shows the duke’s cousin seated in a study wearing a clerical garment that shimmers in the light, and the stately Portrait of Count Federico Bonaventura
(Embassy of Italy, London), dated 1602. Barocci seems to have produced very few smaller or less formal portraits, although his sketch-like Self-Portrait
(Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence), painted around 1595–1600, demonstrates a remarkable strength of observation. Among his rare portraits of women is a Portrait of a Young Girl
(Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence), sometimes identified as Lavinia della Rovere, that is likewise bust length, and in which the artist focused with great tenderness on the girl’s face, her soft hair, and white ruff. Usually dated about 1575, the Young Girl
is painted with the delicacy of Barocci’s devotional art of that time, such as the Madonna of the Cat
(National Gallery, London). The Painting:
In this recently rediscovered work, Barocci paints the young sitter bust-length in an elaborately worked dark jerkin or doublet with a starched, high white ruff. His carefully groomed moustache and beard are a variation on those seen in the portrait of Duke Francesco Maria (whose cheeks are not smooth-shaven), and probably reflect a style at the court. In its simultaneous delicacy and precision of touch, seen for example in the shape and outline of the eyes, it resembles the works from the 1570s mentioned above. At the same time, the greater clarity and solidity with which the grand ruff has been painted could suggest a somewhat later date for this very fine portrait of a still-unidentified young man.
Although the painting’s earliest provenance is not known, an old label on the back of the canvas reveals that in the mid-nineteenth century it was in an illustrious Neapolitan collection, that of Giacomo Lazzari. Lazzari’s collection was inventoried in 1843, and the portrait appears there as "Barocci, Federico. Ritratto d’uomo, di palmi due per due e mezzo, per alto" (see Aloisio 1843). The collection was sold in 1850. Antonello da Messina’s Christ Crowned with Thorns
) also belonged to the Lazzari collection.
Andrea Bayer 2017