Portrait of Francesco Maria della Rovere, Duke of Urbino

Federico Barocci (Urbino 1528/1535 – 30 settembre 1612)
Date
1572
Collection
Technique
Oil on canvas
Size
113 x 93 cm
Inventory
1890 n.1438

The young man in the painting is the last Duke of Urbino, Francesco Maria II della Rovere (1549- 1631), son of Guidobaldo II, who he succeeded in 1574, and nephew of Francesco Maria I, previously painted by Titian in 1538. It was precisely this model, which he was able to study in the Ducal Palace collections, which inspired Barocci in his choice of the young man's proud pose, three quarters of which is shown against an extra dark background in order to heighten the effects of the light on the parade armour, fine work done by a famous Italian armour workshop. The young man’s right hand is at his side and his left hand is on his plumed helmet with the posture being finished off by the gauntlet, a metal plate designed to protect the wearer's hand and, and a shield. Alongside its meticulous treatment of the decorative detail, what stands out in the painting is its marked psychological insight, with the young man's face showing consciousness of his role, ambition and desire for glory in a masterful way as well as his lively intellect which is visible in his sparkling and profound gaze. Coming in from the left, the light exalts the painting's tender flesh tones which shade off delicately into the dark background with a visible red mark on the sash. The portrait was commissioned by Duke Guidobaldo to celebrate his son's military virtues, as demonstrated at the Battle of Lepanto, which was fought in October 1571 between the Holy League (a confederation of European states joined together under the aegis of the papacy) and the Ottoman army. The work marked the beginning of a strong bond, even a friendship, between the painter and the Duke of Urbino. It joined the Medici collection, together with the whole Della Rovere collection which Vittoria inherited when she married Ferdinando II de’ Medici. The Uffizi's Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe conserves the only surviving preparatory sketch, study 11581F r in black pencil which focuses on the detail of the hand position.