This beautiful panel is an important example of the quality of Previtali's portraits. Born near Bergamo in Lombardy, Previtali trained in Giovanni Bellini's workshop in Venice. This is confirmed by the signature in Latin on the back of the work, which in English reads: "Painted by Andrea Cordeliaghi, pupil of Giovanni Bellini".
The painting dates to about 1502, the early phase of the painter's career, and is strongly influenced by Bellini's style.
Although the identity of the sitter is unknown, he was likely to be a Venetian, for his hat and hair style correspond to the city fashion. The tones of the portrait are skilfully combined in order to enhance the luminous nuances of the face, which are also highlighted by the colour of the background and by the darkness of the hat and the hair.
The skull painted on the back of the panel is a clear reference to the transitory nature of beauty and youth and counterpoints the bright eyes of man. The Latin inscription above the skull makes the concept even more explicit: "This is beauty, and this is what remains of it. This law applies to all". The skull image painted upside down indicates that the panel was likely placed on a rotating support.
The work, bought in 1882 by Giuseppe Bertini, the first director of the Museum, is one of the most appreciated portrait of the collection.