Portrait of an Unknown Man and his Servant

Passerotti, Bartolommeo (attrib), 1529 - 1592

Portrait of an Unknown Man and his Servant

Passerotti, Bartolommeo (attrib) 1529 - 1592


This painting was for many years assumed to be a portrait of ‘Domenico Giuliani' of Naples, based on the inscription on the sealed envelope held by the young black servant. Although Giuliani and Naples are clear, the other name has only been guessed at. The boy has a cap in his hand, but whether he is coming or going is open to speculation. His stance suggests strongly that a transaction has taken place already: the artist seems to have caught him turning to leave (perhaps he would have been facing the other way if he had just entered) and the two figures are not communicating directly, as might be expected, if he had just arrived. The ambiguity is enhanced by the fact that the man is writing, quill in hand, but there is a paper knife for opening mail on the table too. Both individuals are wearing clothing of the sort seen in Bolognese court portraiture of the 1570s and 1580s, with some fashionable touches, such as the hanging sleeves from the writer's jerkin. The painting is very similar in style to other works by Bartolomeo Passerotti, who had a large studio in Bologna in the second half of the 16th century and whose four sons were also painters. The treatment of the letter is very close to that of Passerotti's Portrait of a Man Playing a Lute, 1576, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (inv. no. 48.55).

Object Name

Portrait of an Unknown Man and his Servant

Date Created



unframed: 121cm x 92.2cm
framed: 145.5cm x 116cm

accession number


Place of creation





oil paint


© Manchester Art Gallery

Fill out my online form.