Francesco Salviati - inv. 1540
The sitter’s identity is unknown. It has been suggested that he is Cosimo I de Medici, but any likeness to a known portrait of him is only vague. His clothes indicate that he was undoubtedly rich. Black, together with the red that can be glimpsed in the slashes in the sleeves, was one of the most elegant colours and reserved for luxury garments. The two-pointed lace collar, a fashion that arose in Spain in the 1530s and soon spread to Italy, was also a costly accessory at the time.
The young man’s detached, glacial stare is not directed towards the spectator. The facial treatment shows some of the sophisticated features typical of Mannerist painting: the rather elongated figure; the slightly falling shoulders; the polished, almost marble, flesh tones, although these do not reach the unnatural excesses that sometimes mark the work of some followers of this style. The painting, datable to 1543-1545, is by Francesco Salviati, a Florentine painter as well as man of letters and a friend of Vasari. As well as being an esteemed portrait painter, he also realised fresco cycles in many private houses and churches, in Rome and in Florence.