1500 – 1850

The development of the European portrait is traced in this gallery from Giorgione’s exquisite and revolutionary portrait of 1506 to Goya’s thoroughly modern Duque de la Roca of 1795. During the Renaissance in Italy and northern Europe, artists and patrons began to prize the naturalistic likeness in portraiture, emulating earlier periods such as Roman antiquity. Following the Renaissance, a new era emerged around 1600, known in both Spain and the Netherlands as the Golden Age, that saw the dramatic emergence of a new type of patron: the wealthy merchant class. Previously, patronage in Europe was confined primarily to the nobility and religious or civic institutions.

Pioneers in this new artistic climate included Frans Hals, who revolutionized the genre in the Netherlands by depicting his subjects in more relaxed, informal settings, and by exploring the psychological makeup of the sitter. A generation later, Van Dyck’s lengthy residence and popularity in Great Britain shaped an entire national school through the seemingly effortless refinement and elegance of his depictions. Later, Goya reached new heights of naturalism with an unflinching approach as the world around him rapidly transformed from Enlightenment to modernity.

Giorgione (Giorgio de Castelfranco). Portrait of a Man (‘Terris Portrait’), 1506. Oil on panel. The San Diego Museum of Art. Gift of Anne R. and Amy Putnam. 1941.100.