Francesco Salviati Ritrattista: Experiments in Cinquecento Portraiture

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Huang, Xiaoyin
Connoisseurship / attributions , Francesco Salviati , Artistic Exchange , Relationship Between Artists and Literati , Renaissance Portraiture , Homoerotic culture , Artistic Rivalry , Patronage
This dissertation aims to provide a comprehensive study of Francesco Salviati’s portraits, analyzed within a chronological framework. Traditional attributions are re-examined and recent discoveries included to establish a reliable core group of the artist’s portraits, one exhibiting a stylistic coherence. Salviati’s activities as a portraitist are placed in the historical, political, cultural and artistic context of his time, with particular emphasis on patronage. Versatile and well-connected, Francesco served a number of top-ranking patrons of his time, including Cardinal Giovanni Salviati, Pier Luigi and Alessandro Farnese (in Rome), Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici (in Florence), the Grimani family (in Venice), King Henri II, and the Cardinal of Lorraine in France. This study intends to navigate portraiture’s role in the relationships between the courtier-artist and his princely patrons. Characterized by innovation and experimentation, Salviati’s portraits vary in composition, media and supports. As one of the earliest artists to produce portrait miniatures in Italy, Francesco evidently introduced the genre to Cosimo I de’ Medici’s court to create an aura of a royal court equal to that in France and England. His experiments with the use of various stone supports for portraits are discussed in relation to his status as the leading painter in Rome after the death of Sebastiano del Piombo in 1547. Lastly, the artist’s career as a book illustrator is explored to shed light on his interactions with well-known literati of his time, such as Pietro Aretino, Anton Francesco Doni and Giambattista Gelli. The designs Salviati provided for their author portraits are not only testimony to their acquaintance, but also evidence of the artist’s participation in their intellectual communities.
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