Giovanni Battista Moroni - inv. 5240
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, where you can see only a few architectural elements. His extremely elegant dark clothes which gave the painting its name, have been depicted with great finesse, especially in the folds in the drapery and in the delicate passages of light and shade animating its surface. The face of the man, presented in three-quarter and in full light, emerges above the ruffled edge of the white shirt. His eyes gaze intensely at the spectator, while his white hands, holding a sword hilt and an edge of the short cloak, stand out against the black material.
The Knight in Black belongs to the series of the 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 unknown.