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Hidden Faces: Covered Portraits of the Renaissance

Various authors
232 pages
203 illustrations
8.5 x 10 in
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Many small Renaissance portraits were richly adorned with covers or backs bearing allegorical figures, mythological scenes, or emblems that celebrated the sitter and invited the viewer to decipher their meaning. Hidden Faces includes seventy objects, ranging in format from covered paintings to miniature boxes, that illuminate the symbiotic relationship between the portrait and its pair. Texts by thirteen distinguished scholars vividly illustrate that the other “faces” of these portraits represent some of the most innovative images of the Renaissance, created by masters such as Hans Memling and Titian. Uniting works that have in some cases been separated for centuries, this fascinating volume shows how the multifaceted format unveiled the sitter’s identity, both by physically revealing the portrait and reading the significance behind its cover.

Gold aureus of Augustus, Gold, Roman
20–19 BCE
Gold aureus of Diocletian, Gold, Roman
293 CE
Bronze box mirror, Bronze, Greek
2nd quarter of the 4th century BCE
Portrait medal of Cecilia Gonzaga (obverse); Innocence and a Unicorn in a Moonlit Landscape (reverse), Pisanello (Antonio Pisano)  Italian, Bronze (copper alloy with warm brown patina under a worn layer of black wax)
Pisanello (Antonio Pisano)
model 1447 (old aftercast)
Portrait medal of Vittorino Rambaldoni da Feltre (obverse); A Pelican (reverse), Pisanello (Antonio Pisano)  Italian, Bronze (yellowish copper alloy with brown patina and traces of black lacquer or wax)
Pisanello (Antonio Pisano)
model 1446–47 (possibly cast 15th or 16th century)
Portrait medal of Paolo Giovio (obverse); Giovio Raising a Man from a Grave (reverse), Francesco da Sangallo  Italian, Bronze (Copper alloy with brown patina<br/>under a layer of dark wax.)
Francesco da Sangallo
model ca. 1552 (probably a later cast)
House Altarpiece, Oil and gold on wood; metal fixtures, German
ca. 1490
The Lamentation of Christ, Simon Marmion  French, Oil and tempera (?) on oak panel
Simon Marmion
ca. 1473
Francesco d'Este (born ca. 1429, died after 1486), Rogier van der Weyden  Netherlandish, Oil on wood
Rogier van der Weyden
ca. 1460
Portrait of Alvise Contarini(?); (verso) A Tethered Roebuck, Jacometto (Jacometto Veneziano)  Italian, Oil on wood; verso: oil and gold on wood
Jacometto (Jacometto Veneziano)
ca. 1485–95
Portrait of a Woman, Possibly a Nun of San Secondo; (verso) Scene in Grisaille, Jacometto (Jacometto Veneziano)  Italian, Oil on wood; (verso: oil and gold on wood)
Jacometto (Jacometto Veneziano)
ca. 1485–95
Dialogo dell'Imprese Militari et Amorose, Gabriel Symeoni  Italian, Woodcut
Multiple artists/makers
Book Case, Leather (Cuir bouilli), Italian (?)
Italian (?)
15th century
Selvaggia Sassetti (born 1470), Davide Ghirlandaio (David Bigordi)  Italian, Tempera on wood
Davide Ghirlandaio (David Bigordi)
ca. 1487–88
Portrait Medal of Bernardo de Rossi, Francesco Francia  Italian, Bronze (Copper alloy with an olive<br/>green to brown patina.)
Francesco Francia
ca. 1520 (possibly cast seventeenth century)
Two Satyrs in a Landscape, Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)  Italian, Pen and brown ink, highlighted with white gouache on fine, off-white laid paper
Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)
ca. 1505–10
Livret Emblemes de maistre Andre Alciati, Andrea Alciato  Italian, woodcut
Andrea Alciato
Chrestien Wechel
Manuscript Leaf with Coat of Arms, from a Book of Hours, Tempera, ink, and shell gold on parchment, South Netherlandish
South Netherlandish
ca. 1500
Coat of Arms with a Skull, Albrecht Dürer  German, Engraving
Albrecht Dürer
Portrait of a Young Man; (reverse) Girl Making a Garland, Hans Süss von Kulmbach  German, Oil on poplar
Hans Süss von Kulmbach
ca. 1508
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View Citations

Nogueira, Alison Manges, ed. Hidden Faces: Covered Portraits of the Renaissance. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2024.