This stately, but also static portrait stands in stark contrast to Tintoretto’s later oeuvre, in which he excels at vibrant, colourful scenes from the bible and history. At the start of his career, the Venetian artist still painted in the style of his famous tutor Titian, who often depicts his figures set against an even, dark background, with only the face and hands of the figures highlighted and detailed.
The unknown man in this Tintoretto painting also stands in front of a dark background, in which a stone balustrade is only just visible, where the date of the painting also appears. The man’s robes form a uniform, solid black section, which barely stands out against the background of the painting.
Amid all this darkness, Tintoretto strongly highlights the face of the man and the fur trims of the robe. All the attention is drawn to these sections of the painting. The light on the hands, in leather gloves with yellow cuffs, is rather more subtle. The man’s serious face and lively eyes and the faintly gleaming draped fur trims are refined and rendered in detail.