Giovanni Battista Moroni, Italian, c.1521/24-1579/80
Title: Portrait of a Gentleman and his two Children
Date: c.1572-1575
Medium: Oil on canvas
125.3 x 98 cm
Credit Line: Purchased, 1866
Object Number: NGI.105
DescriptionThis is a very intimate portrait showing a father protectively embracing his two daughters. The name of the sitter is unknown, but traditionally it was presumed to be a widower with his children. Despite the evident paternal tenderness, however, nothing really sustains that suggestion today. Even the sober black dress of the man is not definitive proof of his mourning, since it was commonly worn at the time. On the table is a letter with an illegible address, apart from the place ‘Albino’, where Moroni was born.
Although Moroni carried out a number of attractive altarpieces in northern Italy, his true skill was in portraiture and he is considered among the very greatest Renaissance painters of that genre. He painted noblemen, prelates, scholars and ladies of every age. They were all depicted with great likeness, without any idealisation and, most of the time, with a meditative aspect. The use of intense colour against a monochrome architectural backdrop enhances their effect, with the flesh tones of the man’s face and hands finely captured here. Moroni generally portrayed single figures, hence this present picture is considered quite rare.

ProvenanceGiuseppe Finetti, dealer and painter, Bergamo, 1835; Sir John Hawley, England; Christie’s, London, 14 May, 1858, lot 32, bt. by unknown; purchased, London, by National Gallery of Ireland, 1866.
Exhibition HistoryExhibition of Works by the Old Masters, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1884

Centenary Exhibition, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, October - December 1964

Giovanni Battista Moroni, 400th Anniversary Exhibition, National Gallery, London, 1978

The Genius of Venice, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1983-1984

Master European Paintings from the National Gallery of Ireland, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 6 June - 9 August 1992; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, 19 September - 6 December 1992; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 13 January - 28 March 1993; IBM Gallery, New York, 27 April - 26 June 1993

Sofonisba Anguissola e le sue sorelle, Centro culturale 'Città di Cremona' Santa Maria della Pietà, Cremona, 17 September - 11 December 1994; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Gemäldegalerie, Vienna, January - March 1995; The National Museum of Women in Arts, Washington, April - June 1995

Titien, Le Pouvoir en Face, Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, 13 September 2006 - 21 January 2007

Art and Love in Renaissance Italy, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 10 November 2008 - 15 February 2009; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 15 March - 14 June 2009

Giovanni Battista Moroni, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 25 October 2014 - 25 January 2015
Label TextA father, elegantly dressed in black with a narrow white ruff, protectively embraces his two children. Although the identities of the sitters in this portrait are unknown, the unsealed letters on the table provide a clue— the place name ‘Albino’ is clearly legible. The artist, Moroni, was born in Albino, a town near Bergamo in northern Italy. Moroni was one of the greatest portrait painters of the mid-sixteenth century, showing great skill in capturing naturalistic likenesses of his sitters. He generally portrayed single ?gures, so this group portrait is considered quite rare.