Portrait of a Halberdier (Francesco Guardi?)
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Italian, Florence, 1528 - 1530
Oil (or oil and tempera) on panel transferred to canvas
36 1/4 x 28 3/8 in.

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Standing before a fortress wall, this well-dressed foot soldier holds a combination spear and battle-ax called a halberd. His direct stare and swaggering pose are strikingly poignant, given the smooth unlined face and slim body that betray him as no more than a teenager. As a portraitist, Jacopo Pontormo was renowned for his subtle, complex psychological studies; here he conveyed the naive arrogance and vulnerability of youth. Court painter to Duke Cosimo de' Medici, Pontormo pioneered the Mannerist style in Florence, initiating a new, sophisticated type of portraiture in which elegance and aristocratic reserve play key roles. The sitter's identity has been much discussed. The Florentine painter Giorgio Vasari noted that during the siege of Florence in about 1528 Pontormo painted a "most beautiful work," a portrait of young nobleman Francesco Guardi as a soldier. Francesco's birthdate of 1514 would make him about the age of Pontormo's teenage sitter. Based on a Florentine inventory, Cosimo de' Medici himself has also been suggested as the painting's subject.

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Pontormo: Portrait of a Halberdier

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