April - Portraits - the world's best?

  An Idle browse on the web came up with a proposed list of the World's 50 greatest portrait paintings - here's the link if you want to know what they suggest:

http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/genres/portrait-paintings.htm
 
Needless to say, I didn't go along with all of the choices, and I'm not convinced  that some of them are portraits at all. However, all such lists can be stimulating, as you have to sit down and work out why you don't agree and come up with your own list. 
  Here are my rather modest suggestions - just five of them. Two of them appear on the list, three do not.


Raphael: Baldassare Castiglione
Louvre


Durer: portrait of his father aged 70.
National Gallery


Holbein: Erasmus
National Gallery

Sorry, not very politically correct I suppose - no female portraits, not even the Mona Lisa, no modern artists, three from the National Gallery.
  So what makes a great portrait? I suppose the conventional answer is that it offers a psychological insight into the sitter.  Another, perhaps more cynical view, is that it presents the sitter to the world as that sitter would like to be seen - warts and all, maybe. 
  To my mind, the Velasquez and the Bellini are perhaps the most interesting.  From what one reads, Velasquez's portrait of Innocent X was spot on:  suspicious, guarded, severe - described in his own age as 'having the expression of a cunning lawyer'. Even Innocent himself admitted ruefully that Velasquez had got it right - 'troppo vero', (too true). 
  But what about the Bellini, my number one?
  Bellini's genius was to totally contradict the notion of the necessity for psychological insight. Doges were not meant to have too much individual psychology - that wasn't was the job was about. They represented the Republic of Venice, and Bellini's triumph is to present the Doge of the Serenissima with such absolute - and serene - detachment. 

Comments:

My wife has picked a favourite of her own from the National Gallery, Drouais Madame de Pompadour at her Tambour Frame, which certainly helps with the gender balance. A brilliant example of spin through portraiture; a great lady, and yet engaged in a humble and bourgeois pursuit. Oh really? In that dress? 

Frank DeStefano has some suggestions of his own - delighted, Frank, that you are a fan of Holbein! 

   I suppose my favorites are the Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell by Holbein in the Frick Museum in NYC. Perhaps it's subjective but it looks like the juxtaposition of good and evil. I think Frick must have thought so since he gave them pride of place in his living room with only El Greco's Jerome between them. I also like the suspected Giorgione self-portrait that I use on my Giorgione et al profile. I also like Leonardo's ladies, Ginerva de Benci and Cecilia Gallarini, both tough looking young Italian girls. 

My Comments . . .

Of course, Giorgione! Why didn't I think of him? Here are a couple more by him, though the Old Woman is an allegory rather than a portrait. The thuggish looking character comes from the Gallery in San Diego.

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