Titian – The Man With The Glove

The variety of possible aims and values in portraiture is evident if one compares the four or five great examples that are close together in the Grande Galerie. The Mona Lisa, as we have seen, is notable for psychological representation of a more or less idealized, imaginative type. Farther down is Rembrandt’s Portrait of Himself as an Old Man (2555), also penetrating and subtle in character-portrayal, with pro-founder realism, modelling less sculptural, and a mastery of dull half-lights and melting shadows. Tintoretto’s Portrait of Himself (1466) also as an old man, reveals that intense, agitated personality by means of deep, grooving shadows, that distort the face and beard into a throbbing flow of curves. Raphael’s Balthasar Castiglione (1505) is, like its painter, less profound psychologically, more bland and superficial; but it shows a vigorous, unsentimental realism, and a mastery of delicate gray tones, which raise it above his early works.

None of these portraits has the direct visual appeal, as rich color and striking pattern, that is evident in The Man with the Glove. The type of mind behind the face is clearly enough expressed: it is neither bland, subtly tortuous, nor agitated, but direct, alert and self-controlled. But these associations are not forced upon the observer, or conveyed merely by facial expression. They are implicit in the design itself, which is a simple, firm one, of three long straight triangles brought almost to a focus: the head and shirt front, the left hand with pointed finger, the right hand with two gloves. They stand out in clear illumination against a plain dark background, supported by a broader pattern of long, straight diagonals, defined by shoulders, hair and coat-folds. Minor details—the straight nose, the fingers, small partings in the hair, collar and gloves—fit subtly into this rhythm of slender angles. The right hand is a supreme example of deep, organic color used to model a solid, living object. Its warm flesh tints, deftly blended with gray-green shadows, not only give a vivid sense of the essential structure of a human hand, and of the quiet, relaxed power in this particular hand; they also create a new plastic form, directly satisfying in itself, over and above what it represents, as a strongly modelled shape composed of rich and sombrely luminous color.