Alessandro Oliverio, Italian, c.1500-after 1544
Title: Portrait of a Young Man
Date: c.1510-1520
Medium: Oil on wood panel
67 x 57 cm
Signed: lower centre: Alesander Oliverius. V
Credit Line: Purchased, 1882
Object Number: NGI.239
DescriptionThe identity of this young man is unknown. He is elegantly dressed with a wide cloak covering a very large white shirt. His hair is arranged in the fashionable Italian style of the beginning of the 16th century, called 'zazzera', where it is parted in the middle and falls along the shoulders. Hanging at his neck is a curious but useful decorated jewel: a toothpick. The frontal pose of the man is most unusual, and reveals little of the sitter's personality. Even though it is difficult to recognise the sitter, however, it is clear that he was a well-bred man. He was quite probably the son of a wealthy merchant family.

This portrait is the only one known picture to be signed by Alessandro Oliverio. He is a rare artist and only a few records document his activity. He certainly worked in Venice and had some rapport with Palma il Vecchio and Lorenzo Lotto, and for this reason he is often assumed to have come from Bergamo. However, inscribed on the parapet after his name is the letter V, which usually stands for Venice or Venetian.

(National Gallery of Ireland: Essential Guide, 2008)

ProvenanceHamilton Palace Collection; purchased, Christie's, 1882, Hamilton Palace sale
Exhibition HistoryOld Masters Exhibition, Burlington House, London, 1888

Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1888

A Collection of Pictures of the Early Venetian School, Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1912
Label TextA light fuzz of facial hair suggests that the unidentified man in this portrait is young, while his beautifully embroidered garment and elegant jewellery suggest wealth. His bejewelled pendant, attached to a pearl and hanging from a multi-stranded chain, is a fashionable personal hygiene tool: a toothpick. Such elaborate toothpicks were fashionable from the mid-sixteenth century and often took the form of animals or fantastic figures. This captivating portrait was painted by an elusive northern Italian artist whose name is inscribed on the parapet upon which the sitter’s hand rests.

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