Between charm and mystery. The Portrait of a man with a rosary by Lorenzo Lotto on display in Brescia – Brescia

Brescia – A man of about forty, with a good-natured air, dressed in a periwinkle-colored robe with a lynx fur collar, scrutinizes the observer, opening a rosary probably of amber, his lips parted as if to whisper a prayer.

The mysterious identity of the subject represented increases the charm of this wooden table which has gone through 500 years of history to reach us in a perfect state of conservation. Who is the man portrayed by Lorenzo Lotto in this masterpiece which represents the cornerstone of the painter’s late Bergamo activity? Who commissioned the work? And when?
The landscape of the portrait – long attributed to Hans Holbein the Younger and, only after 1910, universally recognized by Lotto – could represent a Marche coast or a view of Lake Iseo.
While some questions about the work still remain unanswered, the Italian public will be able to appreciate its refined elegance at the Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo in Brescia where the intriguing Portrait of man with rosary, special loan from the Nivaagaards Malerisamling Museum in Nivå, Denmarkwill be exposed from 13 September to 21 Januarythe first illustrious guest of the initiatives in view of Bergamo-Brescia Italian Capital of Culture 2023.

Sofonisba Anguissola, Portrait of a Lateran canon, 1556, Brescia, Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo

The arrival in the city of Lotto’s portrait is part of the project PTM Round Trip, the initiative of the Brescia Musei Foundation which transforms the “departures” connected to loan requests into “arrivals” of guest works, offering new reinterpretations of the permanent collection and consolidating the network of relationships with national and international cultural institutions. So in exchange for the Portrait of man with rosary they will leave from the Tosio Martinengo Art Gallery for Nivå il Portrait of a Lateran canon by Sofonisba Anguissola and the Portrait of Europe by Lucia Anguissola, protagonists in the first exhibition in Scandinavia dedicated to the painter Sofonisba Anguissola, pioneer of female artists, from 3 September 2022 to 22 January 2023. The two works will then continue their journey with a second stop in Enschede, at the Rijksmuseum Twenthe, where will be exhibited from 12 February to 11 June 2023.

“The Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo – explains Francesca Bazoli, president of the Brescia Musei Foundation – is at the center of the artistic and cultural programs of the Brescia Musei Foundation. The continuous solicitation of the artistic dialogue that intervenes between the guest works and the permanent collection, the basic principle of the format Roundtrip, demonstrates the vitality of a place that metaphorically welcomes the guest of excellence as in an ancient palace. Lorenzo Lotto, one of the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance, who will be here for nine months in dialogue with the wonderful portraits of Savoldo, Moroni, Romanino and Moretto, reminds us of the increasingly central role in European cultural politics that our painting collection bresciana covers. The public has less need for the great expressions of power represented by the titanic “great exhibitions” and more and more need to concentrate on in-depth analysis, debate in comparison and study, if not research. Finally, the edition of the PTM Round trip Lorenzo Lotto it is the first project formally by the Brescia Museums Foundation which, due to its duration over the year as the Capital of Culture, anticipates the intense emotions that await us in 2023 ”.

Lucia Anguissola, Portrait of Europa Anguissola as a child, 1550-74, Oil on panel, Brescia, Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo

And here it is Portrait of man with rosary, one of the paintings that has attracted the attention of art historians over the decades. The work, created between 1524 and 1525, will enrich the 16th century portrait room inside the Tosio Martinengo Art Gallery, where works by Savoldo, Romanino, Moretto and Moroni already shine, communicating not only one of the most present in the Brescia collection, but allowing us to imagine a time span from Lotto that reaches 1530 thanks to the presence, in the collection, of the extraordinary Adoration of the Magi.

“The portrait of a man with a rosary by Nivagaard – explains Enrico Maria Dal Pozzolo, professor of History of Modern Art and History of Design at the University of Verona, author of the general catalog of Lorenzo Lotto recently published by Skira – is undoubtedly one of the most important examples of Lorenzo Lotto’s portrait production, for the monumentality of the setting but also for the exceptional state of conservation. It is a miracle that has crossed half a millennium of history to reach us, the cornerstone of Lotto’s late Bergamo activity. The man’s identity could be hidden in one of the rings on his fingers, it is plausible that he is from Bergamo. The painting is still an open enigma ”.

Preparation of the Nivagaard Collection

In 1513 Lorenzo Lotto won a competition to create a monumental altarpiece in Bergamo for the main altar of the church of Saints Stefano and Domenico, a work that consecrated him as the most sought after city painter. Therefore the subject could represent a citizen of Bergamo with a still unknown name. And then it was precisely his stay in Bergamo that induced Lotto to experiment every portraiture mode of representation, in completely original terms, so much so that he introduced significant innovations on six sides: the single and double portrait, the group portrait and the one inserted in sacred contemplations, the cryptorportrait and the pseudorportrait.
Furthermore, in Lombardy the Venetian master was also able to come into contact with the production of Leonardo and his followers, of Correggio and of the masters from beyond the Alps, acquaintances that lead him to reach a new artistic maturity, marked by articulated layouts and a witty narrative .

“With this precious loan – comments Stefano Karadjov, director of the Brescia Musei Foundation – we confirm a model of enhancement of our collections in the temporary contamination with the great European institutions and with the most original realities from which, thanks to the mutual relations of exhibitions, we draw to present to the citizens of Brescia and visitors to the Pinacoteca works of great value that enter into dialogue with our works. On this occasion, the public nature of the Brescia and Nivå collections is also celebrated: both owe their wealth to the legacies of illustrious citizens such as Paolo Tosio, Camillo Brozzoni or Johannes Hage for the city of Nivå ”.

Lorenzo Lotto, Portrait of a man with a rosary, 1524-25, Oil on panel, Nivå, Nivaagaards Malerisamling Museum | Courtesy Brescia Museums Foundation

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