Portrait of an Elderly Man
c. 1575
Giovanni Battista Moroni (Italian, c.1525-1578)
On View

Giovanni Battista Moroni depicted the citizens of his native Bergamo with a frankness and faithfulness that was unparalleled by his contemporaries. He is considered one of the great portrait painters of the sixteenth century and, in his own time, even Titian sent him clients. His male subjects are generally deadly serious, their thin lips tight, their eyebrows arched, conscious that they are being studied by the artist. Moroni’s superb draughtsmanship is evident in this portrait where he recorded the distinctive character of his subject with a few strokes of his brush. This extreme economy of detail, where one can see the priming through the thinly applied glazes, and the textured surface of the canvas, is typical of Moroni's last period. It is a masterpiece of psychological penetration and objectivity. Moroni’s portraits are significant because they reflect the ethical values of the Counter-Reformation, which favored truth over idealization. His contribution to the tradition of North Italian realism in painting would find new expression, a generation later, in the young Caravaggio.


  • Artist Name: Giovanni Battista Moroni (Italian, c.1525-1578)
  • Title: Portrait of an Elderly Man
  • Date: c. 1575
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 20 x 16-1/2 in. (50.8 x 41.9 cm)
  • Credit Line: The Norton Simon Foundation
  • Accession Number: F.1969.29.P
  • Copyright: © The Norton Simon Foundation

Object Information

Casa Asperti, Bergamo, presumably by 1792.
Heirs of Pietro Riccardi, possibly by 1824, sold 26 October 1868 to;
Antonio Piccinelli (d. 1891), Seriate (Bergamo), presumably by descent to his nephew;
Giovanni Piccinelli (d. 1913), Seriate (Bergamo), presumably by descent to his son;
Ercole Piccinelli (d. 1954), Seriate (Bergamo).
[Private collection, Italy, ca. 1930].
Count Alessandro Contini-Bonacossi, by descent to;
Lorenzo Papi, Florence, sold 1969 to;
The Norton Simon Foundation.

Excellence: Art from the University Community

  • University of California, Berkeley Art Museum, 1970-11-06 to 1971-01-09

Six Centuries of Portraiture from the Permanent Collection

  • Norton Simon Museum, 1989-11-02 to 1990-12-16
  • Siffredi, G., Bergomum, p. 98
  • Berenson, Bernard, North Italian Painters of the Renaissance, p. 270
  • Bereson, Bernard, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools, p. 286
  • Rathgeb, R. Bassi, L'Arte, p. 127
  • Suida, W., Emporium, fig. 8 p. 54
  • Tassi, F., Vite de'pittori, scultori e architetti bergamaschi, 1793, p. 169
  • Marenzi, Conte Girolamo, Guida di Bergamo, 1824, p. 141
  • Piccinelli, A., Postille monoscritte alle 'Vite' del Tassi, 1863,
  • Fornoni, E., Note biografiche su pittori bergamaschi, 1915,
  • Merten, H., Giovanni Battista Moroni. Des Meisters Gemälde und Zeichnungen, 1928, p. 84
  • Zibaldone, 1968,
  • Bergomum, 1972, illus. LVIII p. 94
  • Gregori, Mina, Giovan Battista Moroni: tutte le opere, 1979, no. 175, fig. 1 pp. 296, 368
  • Masterpieces from the Norton Simon Museum, 1989, p. 28
  • Milesi, Silvana, Moroni e il primo Cinquento bergamasco, 1991, p. 35
  • Paccanelli, Rosanna, Giacomo Carrara (1714-1796): e il collezionsimo d'arte a Bergamo, 1999, p. 57
  • Campbell, Sara, Collector Without Walls: Norton Simon and His Hunt for the Best, 2010, cat. 671 p. 325

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