European Painting before 1900, Johnson Collection
Portrait of a Gentleman
Dosso Dossi (Giovanni de' Luteri), Italian (active Ferrara), first recorded 1512, died 1542
Oil on canvas
Cat. 251John G. Johnson Collection, 1917
LabelThe identity of this gentleman is not known, but the picture suggests that his interests included science and the observation of natural phenomena such as unusual weather. He looks at an armillary sphere, an astronomer's instrument for mapping the heavens (barely visible at the edge of the painting), and points to a maze, which symbolizes the course of life on earth. In the background is a stormy landscape in which a bird, smoldering because it has been struck by lightning, lies aback a donkey. This odd scene may record a curious incident the gentleman had observed, but more probably has symbolic meaning that has yet to be explained.
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