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Young, Stylish, and Venetian

Jimmy, TAG Member

Posted: Friday, February 24, 2012

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.


  • Freddie H says:

    Hello, I really enjoy this blog. I am 13 years old and I live in London. I run a new blog called Angry Words where I encourage other teens to share their reviews in arts (Film, Visual Art, Books, Architecture, Dance, Music, Theatre and TV) with the world through my blog. I would love it if you could place a link on your blog so teens reading your blog could share and read other work. Or could I contribute to your teen blog in any way?
    I was recently awarded a national award, named as the Guardian Young Arts Critic of 2011. To win this I reviewed the Homage to Lucien Freud in August at the Metropolitan Museum over in New York. Here is a link to my winning entry; http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2011/oct/12/young-arts-critics-competition-2011

    Here is the link to my blog: www.angrywordsblog.blogspot.com

    Posted: February 26, 2012, 12:17 p.m.

  • MMA Teens says:

    Thank you very much for your comment! We will certainly pass along your blog to other teens. Also, congratulations on your fantastic review and recognition! We would love to hear your comments in response to our Teen Advisory Group's posts. As of now, they are our primary authors, but we will let you know if we expand and include guest authors. Thank you again for following our blog!

    Posted: February 27, 2012, 12:07 p.m.

  • Alexander says:

    Hello Jimmy,

    My name is Alexander, I’m a student and I must say I found your comment on this painting very good and straight to the point. I found the blending of the young man’s clothing with the dark background quite fascinating myself. You can observe this type of black back round on other portraits of the Renaissance. Many portraits resemble this one such as “Portrait of a Boy” and “Portrait of a Man”. I would like to add that the seemingly formal look and dark clothing could suggest the social class as well as profession of the subject in the painting. He sports an emotionless look that shows he might occupy an important job requiring a certain degree serious. His gaze into the unknown suggests he could be a thinker. As you have stated, the men in the two portraits wear long black gowns typical of upper class Venetians. This point can also be emphasized by the shear fact they were able to get painted by artists such as Jacometto Veneziano. It is true that both men are dressed alike, have the same headdress and clothing but the back rounds are totally different. The second one has a lightly colored back round with a view on the countryside whilst the other one is a pitch black back round.

    Posted: March 13, 2012, 10:07 p.m.

  • Jimmy says:

    Thank you, Alexander, for writing in response to my blog post! I definitely agree with your point of view and thoughts. You should consider studying Art History.

    Posted: March 16, 2012, 7:28 p.m.

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About the Author

Jimmy is a member of the Museum's Teen Advisory Group.

About this Blog

This blog, written by the Metropolitan Museum's Teen Advisory Group (TAG) and occasional guest authors, is a place for teens to talk about art at the Museum and related topics.