Paris Bordon (Italian, Venetian, 15001571)
Oil on canvas; 46 x 62 in. (116.8 x 157.5 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 1973 (1973.311.1)
The painting shows a high-ranking officer with two pages. The officer's identity is unknown. He was once tentatively suggested to be Carlo da Rho (d. 1559), Bordon's most important Milanese patron, who without a doubt did commission a portrait from the artist. Recent research, however, has shown that da Rho was not a military man.
Whoever he is, the sitter and his two pages are portrayed with an almost palpable empathy. The older man, his hair and beard grizzled, his eyes deeply set, gazes abstractedly to the side as one page, with a fresh, lively expression, adjusts his arm plate. The other boy, who has a more serious expression and subtly defined features, holds the officer's helmet. The turret of a castle rises above the trees at left, and the threateningly gray storm clouds and smoke above convey the imminence of war with as much subtle force as the ghostly mass of soldiers at right. The horizontal format, with its insinuations of narrative, and the plainly somber mood are strong indications that Bordon was aware of the groundbreaking portraits being painted by another Venetian, Lorenzo Lotto. Bordon's own contributions, especially the lush landscape and unusual, slightly acidic palette, are formidable in their own right.