Domenico di Bartolomeo Ubaldini, called
Portrait of a Gentleman in a Gray Hat and Cloak
Oil on panel
37 ¾ x 28 ⅞
(95.9 x 73.3 cm)
Private Collection, England; sale, Christie’s, London, December 13, 1991, lot 81 (as by Puligo); where purchased by:
[Stanley Moss & Company, Riverdale-on-Hudson, New York]
Private Collection, New York, 1992-2017
Domenico Puligo, 1492-1527: Un protagonista dimenticato della pittura fiorentina, Florence, Galleria Palatina, Palazzo Pitti, October 2002-January 2003, ex-catalogue.
Elena Capretti, “Domenico Puligo, un protagonista ‘ritrovato’,” in Domenico Puligo, 1492-1527: Un protagonista dimenticato della pittura fiorentina, ed. Serena Padovani (Florence 2002), 40, fig. 58, 42, and 51, no. 67.
Domenico di Bartolomeo Ubaldini, who came to be known Domenico Puligo, entered the workshop of Ridolfo Ghirlandaio in the first decade of the sixteenth century and remained there, according to Vasari, “for many years.” Documentation concerning his early career is scarce. He entered the Compagnia di San Luca in 1525, only two years before his death from the Plague in 1527, but he clearly had an established independent career in earlier years. Although he received commissions for public altarpieces, he is best known for paintings intended for domestic settings – whether intimate religious works, mythological subjects, or portraits. His only signed painting is a portrait dated 1523, now at Firle Place, Sussex, and only two named portraits are mentioned by Vasari -- the Portrait of Piero Carnesecchi in the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, and the Portrait of Barbara Fiorentina, now in a private American collection.
Puligo was with Andrea del Sarto a member of the Compagnia del Paiuolo (Company of the Cauldron), a spirited club devoted to exotic banquets, but it is clear that the bond of the two artists extended to artistic matters. Puligo’s paintings have in the past been confused with Andrea’s. In their portraits both strove to convey a nobility of spirit of the subject, while Puligo seems to stress nuanced aspects of personality. His portraits are subtle ruminations of character, and the artist’s Leonardesque sfumato only adds to the inward-looking contemplative quality of his sitters.
The present portrait is an outstanding example of Puligo’s portraiture. The forcefully modelled features of the gentleman seem almost sculpted out of a soft marble. He is enclosed by a swirling gray cloak as he grasps a pair of light gray gloves in his left hand. He wears an elegant Florentine hat of much the same design as those seen in Puligo’s portraits of a Man with a View of Florence (Oakly Park), Piero Carnesecchi (Uffizi), and, above, all the Portrait of a Man with Gloves (Florence, Galleria Palatina). That painting shares with the present work not only a similar format and pose, but a close affinity in spirit and mood. It is, as well, a painting to be dated circa 1525-27, like the present work at the height of Puligo’s powers, but close to the end of his short life.
Dr. Elena Capretti (in written communication, Sept. 29, 2017) has confirmed Puligo’s authorship of the present painting noting that the portrait “has a boldness and character that renders it the equal of the finest portraits of the period by Andrea del Sarto, Rosso Fiorentin, Pontormo, and Franciabigio.”[i]
[i] “Il ritratto di cui mi ha gentilmente inviato la foto è semplicemente bellissimo e mi pare che il restauro sia stato condotto con grande rigore. Non so chi possa essere il personaggio ritratto, ma la sua immagine mi dà l’occasione di tornare a riflettere sull’opera. Essa ha una fierezza e un carattere che lo rende al pari dei più alti ritratti del tempo (Andrea, Rosso, Pontormo, Franciabigio).”