Light in Art – Giovanni Battista Moroni

Beauty is in the eye of beauty


The work you see before you is regarded as a Masterpiece in Western Art. This is not the loose term Trinidadians generally like to bestow onto a few of their local artists, international or otherwise, but It means a work indescribable in its execution and beauty.

This is a work by Giovanni Battista Moroni Mannerist period between 1565-70. The sitter is an arduous tailor at his working table, captured at the moment he is preparing to cut a piece of cloth with a pair of shears. painted from the

Standing behind a wooden table, he has positioned himself slightly forward and weighted. He holds the black fabric between his stocky thumb and forefingers, and with his other hand, the shears are clasped between his knuckle.

The doublet is worn close to his body, and the linen jacket reveals the droop of his chest and stomach as the garment clings to him. The fabric has embroidered lines that run towards his ruff and the folds give a sense of the weave and weight of the cloth. His burgundy coloured hose bellows beneath a thin leather belt and the hood of his codpiece is visible through the pleats of fabric. Every fine hair is noticeable from the sides of his brow and his pupils are dilated, yet strained from the incandescent candle light.

So what makes this particular painting so stunning? Not only is the young man seductively inviting, but he is looking directly at the spectator with a mannerism and posed that is chromatically charming. Like great works of art, the subject can mesmerize you where you literally stand and gaze over the painting. At every detail, at every nuance, what draws this attention? It captures the humanity. With Giovanni Battista Moroni’s painting of the unknown man, his gaze speaks With Giovanni Battista Moroni’s painting of the unknown man, his gaze speaks of a love, the connection between himself and the artist.

Moroni’s realistic depictions puts him as one of the finest portraitists of the sixteenth century. The realistic tone of the subject’s persona is rendered by the painter who can convey the nuances of their facial and physical appearance, as with this slightly wary eyed subject. Yet it is his understanding of the presence of light on a subject which can evoke layers of luminance.

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The Mannerists

Mannerism developed after The Renaissance period. One could be sceptical and say that it was a crisis period in Art. After all, The Renaissance spawned Donatello,Michelangelo, Raphael and Da Vinci. Who and what sort of work could stand in its wake? As we now know, Art never dies, it continues to express itself in exciting ways. theBookmann talks about the sensitivity of line and colour as well as the opportunity to gaze on the young man cutting cloth over and over again.

I concur that this is one of the wonderful things about Art. Art certainly can draw you in and make you emotional in ways that you are unprepared for. In this particular work, this has been made apparant. What I wondered as I looked at it, was the present day argument for photorealism. On the one hand, people enjoy and crave it and on the other, people say that you could easily take a picture instead.

This Mannerist painting shows us that although the image is extremely realistic, the painter manages to capture much more than reality. The painter captures a mood as well as a moment in time, now a history, lost to the past, yet very relevant to the future because great work never spoils. – Adele

Giovanni Battista Moroni – Tailor
c 1565-70
Oil on canvas
99.5 x 77 cm.

1 comment so far

  1. jp davis on

    I am actuallay a period tailor and this is one of my favorite pieces! Although I’m affraid that I am so particular that i must correct you on one thing. The short lines you see covering his doublet are not embroidered but in fact cut. This was a popular embelishment for the time period called pinking. Cutting little slashes in clothing allowed for a contrasting interlining fabric to show through. the style is thought to have started when soldiers would come home from war with their clothing slashed and torn.


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