Caravaggio and the Painters of the North
From 21 June to 18 September 2016
Amico Aspertini trained in the family workshop and was influenced by artists of the school of Ferrara such as Ercole de’Roberti, Lorenzo Costa and Francesco Francia. He worked as a painter and sculptor and was also a fine draughtsman, as numerous surviving designs and sketches reveal. Vasari described him as a capricious and eccentric man, also wittily recounting the extreme rapidity with which Aspertini finished his commissions and which according to Vasari he speeded up by applying colour with both hands. Aspertini was in Rome between 1500 and 1503, the period to which the Codex Wolfegg by the artist has been dated. This is a sketchbook in which Aspertini made notes on groupings of classical figures and scenes and in which he provides details of musical instruments and other decorative items on various pages. The artist was again in Bologna in 1504. Among his series of frescoes, a particularly fine example is the one for the chapel of Sant’Agostino in the church of San Frediano in Lucca with The Adoration of the Shepherds as well as saints and scenes from the Passion. One of his most notable works was the decoration for the Bentivoglio family of the new oratory of Santa Cecilia in the church of San Giacomo in Bologna. Particularly striking among these scenes are the martyrdom of Saints Valerian and Tiburtius and their burial.
The present portrait has been in the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection since 1928 when it was acquired from the Caspari gallery in Munich. It entered the Collection as a work by Aspertini and was catalogued as such from 1930 onwards. The painting, however, had previously been studied by various art historians who were not in complete agreement on its attribution. Magaluzzi Valeri considered it to be by Bernardino de’Conti, a Milanese artist who was familiar with the work of Bernardo Zenale and Leonardo, and Berenson offered a similar opinion in 1932. Van Marle accepted the attribution to Aspertini, basing his argument on the similarity between the present head and the heads of the figures in the frescoes in San Frediano, Lucca. Other attributions include Marco Marziale (suggested by Suida), Filippo Mazzola and Francesco Francia.
According to the inscription at the upper edge, the sitter is Tommaso Raimondi, a jurist and poet from Cremona who died in 1510. Raimondi appears as a donor in a painting by Marco Marziale of 1500 in a painting of The Circumcision of Christ (National Gallery, London). In the present portrait the artist focuses all the attention on the sitter’s face, which receives the light as it falls from the left, leaving his hair in darkness. Both the details of the hair and the hat are consequently lost in the green background. The bust is conceived in a plain, almost austere manner, only enlivened by two elements: the narrow fur edging of the jacket and the striking gold chain formed from various strands of small, closely interlinked elements and which provides a contrast against the black clothing.