This middle-aged gentleman, with thick beard and white hair, has a deep and authoritative gaze, which captures the viewer also by virtue of the close-up framing. The dark background of the wall brings out the details of his clothing: the black suit with large, open sleeves lined with fine fur, the cloth hat of the same colour and the red sash wrapped around his neck indicate that the elderly man belonged to the rank of Venetian senators, as described by Cesare Vecellio - a relative and pupil of Titian - at the end of the 16th century in a very famous treatise on the customs of the Serenissima (De gli habiti antichi, e moderni di diverse parti del mondo, Venice 1590).
In the 17th century, the portrait was owned by Paolo del Sera, a wealthy Florentine merchant who lived in Venice, and at that time was believed to be an autograph work by Titian. By virtue of this attribution, in 1654 it was purchased by Cardinal Leopold de' Medici, son of Grand Duke Cosimo II and Maria Magdalena of Austria. As a matter of fact, the prelate had a keen interest in Venetian painting and used to take the advice of connoisseurs, artists and correspondents outside Florence for his purchases. Testifying to the value given to this painting, even after Leopold's death, is the fact that it was moved to the Uffizi and exhibited in the Tribune, still under the name of Titian.
Today, on the basis of specialised studies, the portrait is attributed to the Verona artist Bonifacio de' Pitati, a disciple of Palma il Vecchio, who was a highly regarded artist in Venice during the mid-16th century for being the author of portraits and small-format paintings with mythological and moralising themes.
B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance, London 1957, I, p. 42; G. Agostini, in Tiziano nelle Gallerie fiorentine, catalogo della mostra (Firenze, Palazzo Pitti, 23 dicembre 1978 - 31 marzo 1979) a cura di G. Agostini, Firenze 1978, pp. 244-246.; Gli Uffizi. Catalogo Generale, Firenze 1979, p. 169.