Jacometto (Jacometto Veneziano) (active by ca. 1472–d. before 1498). Portrait of a Young Man, 1480s. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Jules Bache Collection, 1949 (49.7.3)
«I chose to learn more about Portrait of a Young Man by Jacometto Veneziano because I was fascinated by how the young man's black clothing blends into the dark background of the painting.» In comparison with other Renaissance portraits I have seen in The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini, this painting seems so dark. Does this artistic choice imply darkness within this young man's life? Unfortunately, we don't know the identity of this young man, so we don't know a lot about him.
He gazes upwards, off into the unknown, and does not make eye contact with the viewer. Looking at the portrait from a distance, I realized that there are details that should be seen up close. In contrast to the dark background, the young man's face is illuminated. His eyes, nose, and lips are painted with lots of detail. It seems like Jacometto really wanted his audience to concentrate on the subject's face in the center of the composition.
The young man's hair conceals his forehead and most of his ears. His hairstyle is rather formal, and I don't think any teenager today would consider mimicking it (unless he or she is very passionate about Renaissance art). The hairstyle was called a zazzera and was considered very fashionable during the 1480s and 1490s in Venice. The Metropolitan Museum of Art owns a second portrait by Jacometto in which the subject sports a zazzera:
Jacometto (Jacometto Veneziano) (active by ca. 1472–d. before 1498). Alvise Contarini(?); (verso) A Tethered Hart, last quarter 15th century. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Robert Lehman Collection, 1975 (1975.1.86)
The men in these two portraits wear long, black gowns typical of upper-class Venetian men. In both portraits, Jacometto uses shadow and light to make his subjects look realistic. I like that Portrait of a Young Man shows more of the subject's face because this view creates a stronger connection with the audience. Make sure to visit the Museum and check out these works of art in person.
"Venice and Northern Italy, 1400–1600 A.D." October 2002. Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.
What do you think is on the subject's mind in Portrait of a Young Man? What do you think about the zazzera? What do our hairstyle choices say about who we are?
We welcome your responses to these questions below.