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Portrait of a Young Gentleman

Antonello da Messina (Antonello di Giovanni di Michele de Antonio), Italian (active Messina, Naples, and Venice), first securely documented 1456, died 1479

Made in Sicily, Italy, Europe


Oil on panel

12 5/8 x 10 11/16 inches (32.1 x 27.1 cm) Frame: 17 1/2 × 15 5/8 × 1 1/2 inches (44.5 × 39.7 × 3.8 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

* Gallery 213a, European Art 1100-1500, second floor

Accession Number:
Cat. 159

Credit Line:
John G. Johnson Collection, 1917

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Antonello da Messina transformed the Renaissance portrait in paintings like this one, in which the face emerges from the dark background and the sitter’s steady gaze confronts the viewer. He created this composition shortly before traveling to Venice, where his work greatly influenced Giovanni Bellini (Italian, first documented 1459, died 1516), who is considered the founder of Venetian Renaissance art.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art Handbook (2014 Edition)

    Antonello da Messina, whose career took him from his native Messina in Sicily to Naples and Venice, was one of the first Italian artists to adopt the Netherlandish use of oil, which gave his paint surfaces a luminosity that egg tempera, then the primary painting medium in Italy, could not achieve. This method served him particularly well in his portraits, which were considered the greatest in fifteenth-century Italy for their psychological penetration of character, as seen in this masterpiece, in which the sitter emerges from the dark background with only his face lit. Carl Brandon Strehlke, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2014, p. 100.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.

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