Francesco Trevisani

Georges Michel
13th May 2015
Daniel Turner
13th May 2015

Francesco Trevisani


Francesco Trevisani – Capodistria

1656 – 1746 Rome

Portrait of a gentleman, three-quarter-length, in a black jacket and satin mantle, wearing a hat

Oil on canvas

40 ⅞  x 29 ⅞ in. (103.9 x 75.9 cm.)



Collection of a nobleman, Great Britain

Francesco Trevisani was one the greatest Roman painters of his generation, famous for altar pieces and cabinet pictures that depicted biblical and mythological themes in a style that fluctuated between the classicism of Maratta and the softer, sweeter sentimental manner of the new proto Rococo interpretations referred to as the Barocchetto.

His life and works spanned two centuries and two major styles in art – the Baroque, belonging to the 17th century, and the Neo-classical style of the 18th century. Admired for his artful portraits incorporating elements of both, Trevisani became internationally known as the most accomplished Roman painter of his time. His patrons ranged from Roman popes and cardinals to leaders of the European courts. King Louis XIV of France is said to have owned no fewer than 25 of his paintings. Trevisani was a highly fashionable artist in his day as his many important commissions prove, however he also had long-term influence, as his idyllic Arcadian scenes clearly inspired later painters such as Lemoyne and Carl van Loo. 

During the early years of the 18th century, Trevisani moved in the most advanced intellectual circles in Rome, and had as friends and patrons individuals who were trying to redefine the arts in more modern terms.  The Accademia degli Arcadi, a forum for these new aesthetic ideas was established in 1690 by a group that had gathered around Queen Christina of Sweden.  Trevisani was profoundly affected by the values of this group, with which he became associated through Cardinal Ottoboni, one of its most distinguished members.  In this circle he met the architect Filippo Juvarra and the musician Arcangelo Corelli, who owned two works by the artist.  The anti-Baroque rationalistic tendencies of the Arcadians, as the associates of the Accademia were known, were expressed in painting by artists like Maratta, Gimignani, Daniel Seiter, Bernardo Morando and Trevisani.  Uniting them all was an underlying classicism that foreshadowed the work of the Venetian Giambattista Crosato as well as Francois Lemoyne and Charles-Joseph Natoire.

Despite his tremendous success in obtaining large scale commissions, Trevisani maintained a very fruitful business as a portraitist.  While based on the Roman portrait tradition that runs from Bernini to Andrea Sacchi and from Ferdinand Voet to Maratta, his portraits of both noble Italian patrons and visiting Grand Tourists exhibit an unusual spontaneity and informality, that create a unique sense of intimacy between artist and subject.  Certainly the present portrait reveals an individual open to the viewer.  His face is relaxed and his eyes fixed on us.  In addition, his open hand is extremely expressive.  It is as if he is caught in the middle of a dialogue with the viewer, as if he has stopped speaking just for a moment.  The dark background and raking strong light that falls across the sitter, refer back to his training in Venice with Zanchi, and ultimately to lessons learned from the great Venetian painters like Veronese, Titian, and Tintoretto. 

This portrait is flooded with a warm golden light highly reminiscent of Venetian works.  The brilliant handling of the garments the man wears as well as his beautifully painted hands and face mark Trevisani as one of the greatest portraitists of his age.