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Humanities | Analyzing Art

The most famous portrait by Raphael is the portrait of his longtime patron and friend, Baldassare Castiglione, the oil painting of 1514-1515. Since 1661, “Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione” is presented in the collections of the Louvre, and now occupies one of the most prominent places in the museum.

The artist captured the Count turning him three quarters to the audience, thus, building the composition similar the techniques found and used in Leonardo’s “Mona Lisa” (Beck, 1994). Castiglione’s look is calmly turned to the audience. It may even seem that there is some noticeable weakness and rigidity in this look, but this feeling vanishes when you see the subtle, as though honed to the smallest details, features of the face, which may belong only to an active and energetic person.

Castiglione’s figure is framed and defined by a closed-cut line, enveloping shoulders, and hands joined in with each other. The similar kind of sphere is formed by the volume of the head with a soft hat, which emphasizes the relief shading and face.

Here, on the face, the main attention of the artist is focused. Tenderest and practically undetectable gamma of silvery tones unites black, brown, gray, green and white colors of the clothes. The colour flickers and shimmers in pearly chatoyment of Castiglione’s clothes without irritating the eyes with dissonances and careless contrasts (Lüttenberg, 2005). In this portrait, Raphael’s brush seems to reach the complete freedom. The view gets impressed by the sharpness of observation and psychologism inherent to the portrait, while the painting’s warm coloration is remarkable with it restrained and noble range of colors.

The Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione was not a special-order portrait. The Count, diplomat, philosopher, poet, and one of the famous humanists of his time, was a friend of Raphael (Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione). His image distinguished out of many bright figures of the Italian Renaissance not by its ambitions, unbridled passions, or genius abilities, but by the integrity and harmonious balance of character, agreement between his own understanding of the world and the reality in which he lived. Such a person organically fitted the artist’s ideas about the ideal man. It is therefore natural that the skills of the painter and his coloristic gift easily merged at the canvas with the inner characteristics of the model.

In our opinion, creating the portrait of Baldassare Castiglione, Raphael materialized the ideal of the perfect man of the Renaissance in the real image. In the portrait, the abstract notion of the ideal, revealed in the form of a particular person, appears in an indissoluble harmonic unity, making up the completeness, depth and power of Raphael’s realistic art. “Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione” (1514-1515) represented in the Louvre surely belongs to the masterpieces and best works by Raphael in this genre.


Beck, J. H. (1994). Masters of Art: Raphael. Harry N. Abrams.
Lüttenberg, T. (2005). The Cod-piece—A Renaissance Fashion between Sign and Artefact. The Medieval History Journal, 8 (1), pp. 49-81.
Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione. Louvre Museum Official Website. http://www.louvre.fr/llv/oeuvres/detail_notice.jsp?CONTENT%3C%3Ecnt_id=10134198673225136&CURRENT_LLV_NOTICE%3C%3Ecnt_id=10134198673225136&FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=9852723696500816&fromDept=false&baseIndex=25&bmLocale=en