Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione

Raphael is known for his remarkable ability to capture a sense of emotional quality from the sitters in his portraits. His paintings seem to be actually representative of the personality and quality of the people in them, something rare for the time. Along with his exceptional skill of replicating fabrics and the human form Raphael was capable of things not many other artists at the beginning of the 16th century were capable of. This portrait is certainly an example of Raphael’s legacy.

Castiglione, a close friend of Raphael, was an active member of high renaissance society. He was an ambassador of the court of Urbino and writer. His book “The Courtier”, on the topic of how gentlemen should behave, was rather successful. The portrait does a fantastic job of reflecting what we know about Castiglione in his facial features and overall appearance. His face and posture show to us a kind man who is respectful of his audience. He is rather dignified and demands nothing of the viewer, the relationship between himself and the audience should be savored. The extremely satisfying qualities of the piece are what puts it above others. This sense of effortless emotion and relation would go on to influence all of the great portraitists of the west ranging from Rembrandt of the mid 17th century to John Singer Sargent of the late 19th century. Hundreds of years later Raphael still has had a lasting impact on art.


c. 1516, oil on panel, 32x 26 in, Musée du Louvre, Paris