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Portrait of a seated man wearing a red hat

A light-skinned man sits in a chair with metallic gold accents and tassels. The man is fairly young and has brown hair with a slightly receded hairline, a brown mustache, and a brown beard. His eyes are bright and expressive, and his mouth shows a subtle smile. He wears a red pointed hat, a white collar, a black stole, and a white robe. Behind him is a black background. A shiny burgundy curtain is draped over its left corner. The artist’s brushwork is very fine, and the texture of the shiny curtain and gold detailing is quite detailed.

Gallery Text

Cardinal Alessandrino (1541–1598) participated in the conclave of 1585, which elected Pope Sixtus V. The pope then gave Alessandrino enormous authority by naming him his vicar general in Rome and of the entire Church. Despite his high rank, Alessandrino continued to wear his white and black Dominican habit. The cardinal is portrayed in a straightforward fashion, sitting on a chair and making eye contact with the viewer. His sober vestments contrast with the rich fittings of the plush velvet chair and the elegant satin curtain to his right. This cloth, theatrically pulled back and casting a dark shadow, humorously reveals that this is a painted image: a picture within a picture. Canvases were often covered with protective cloths. Pulzone has put the beholder in the position of being present when the portrait is revealed for the first time.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Scipione Pulzone, called Il Gaetano, Italian (Gaëta, Italy 1544 - 1598 Rome, Italy)
Michele Bonelli, called "Cardinal Alessandrino"
Other Titles
Title: Michele Cardinal Bonelli (1541-1598), called "Cardinal Alessandrino"
Work Type
Creation Place: Europe, Italy, Lazio
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2540, European Art, 13th–16th century, The Renaissance
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Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
136.5 x 105.2 cm (53 3/4 x 41 7/16 in.)
framed: 156.5 x 125 x 11 cm (61 5/8 x 49 3/16 x 4 5/16 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Possibly in Barberini Collection (Rome). Sciarra Collection (Rome, until 1880s?). C. Fairfax Murray (London, until 1905), sold; to Edward Edward Waldo Forbes, gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1905.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Edward W. Forbes
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • Highlights from the Collections of the Fogg Museum and Harvard Alumni of St. Louis, exh. cat., City Art Museum of St. Louis (St. Louis, 1964), cat. 61
  • Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, exh. cat., Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, 1967)
  • Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings from the Fogg Art Museum, exh. cat., Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY, 1967), cat. 53
  • Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri, Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1972), p. 171
  • Sydney J. Freedberg, "Lorenzo Lotto to Nicolas Poussin", Apollo (May 1978), vol. 107, no. 195, pp. 389-397, p. 393, repr. p. 393 as fig. 9
  • Kristin A. Mortimer and William G. Klingelhofer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press (Cambridge and New York, 1986), no. 179, p. 157, repr.
  • Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), pp. 125, 340, repr. b/w cat. no. 707
  • Robert B. Simon, From Sacred to Sensual: Italian Paintings, 1400-1750, exh. cat., Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc. (New York, NY, January 1998), p. 58
  • Alexandra Dern, Scipione Pulzone (ca. 1546-1598), Verlag Und Datenbank Für Geisteswissenschaften (Weimar, Germany, 2003), no. 44, pp. 149-150, repr. as abb. 58; pp. 28-29, 62, 103
  • Andrea Del Col and Anne Jacobson Schutte, ed., L'Inquisizione romana, i giudici e gli eretici, Viella (Rome, 2017), repr. as cover image
  • Yuri Primarosa, Ottavio Leoni (1578-1630): Eccelente miniator di ritratti. Catalogo ragionato dei disegni e dei dipinti, Ugo Bozzi Editore (Rome, 2017), pp. 67, 675, repr. p. 66 as fig. 39

Exhibition History

  • Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings from the Fogg Art Museum, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 05/08/1967 - 06/11/1967
  • Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 10/12/1967 - 12/03/1967
  • The Portrait, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 10/15/2004 - 01/09/2005
  • 32Q: 2540 Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Related Works

Verification Level

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