Giovanni Battista Moroni - inv. 5240

Giovan Battista Moroni (1520/1524-1578)

The Knight in Black
1567 c.
oil on canvas  
190 x 102 cm
2004 bequest Annibale Scotti Casanova
Inv. 5240

Golden Room
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One of the most famous portraits by Giovanni Battista Moroni, this painting came to the Poldi Pezzoli Museum in 2004. Until the 1950s it had been in the well known collection of the counts Moroni of Bergamo, who had a considerable number of important works by this artist – seemingly a family relation –, the majority of which are still in their hands.

Painted life size, the Knight in Black stands out against the grey background, you can see only a few architectural elements: a string course supporting two great pilasters. His extremely elegant dark clothes, which gave the painting its name, have been depicted with great finesse especially the folds in the drapery and the delicate passages of light and shade animating the surface. The face, presented in three-quarter and in full light, emerges from the narrow collar, above the ruffled edge of the white shirt. The eyes gaze intensely at the spectator, while his white hands, holding a sword hilt and an edge of the short cloak, stand out sharply against the black material.

The Knight in Black belongs to the series of most beautiful full-length portraits painted by Giovanni Battista Moroni. The painting is datable to c. 1567, Moroni’s last period, characterised by a palette based on tones of black and grey, a formal simplification, and a more perceptive and searching investigation of reality. The identity of the enigmatically smiling young man, who appears to be about 25 or 30 years old, is still unknown.