PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG MAN
Artist: Pier Francesco Mola
SN 905, oil on canvas, c. 1650-55
From: "The Pages"
Pier Francesco Mola was an Italian Baroque painter who was active primarily in Rome. His style was characterized by warm coloring and soft modeling, and was formed mainly on the example of Guercino and the Venetian artists. His most characteristic works are fairly small canvases with religious or mythologic figures set in landscapes.
Mola finished his training in northern Italy and launched his career in 1640. His frescoes at this time showed him to be a slow learner who lacked confidence in creating multi-figured dramatic compositions. Subsequent study in Venice and Bologna accounted for an increasingly Venetian influence, which can be seen in a number of small cabinet paintings in which the landscape dominates the figures. These landscapes are strongly Venetian, and their idyllic mood suggests the influence of Francesco Albani who wrote of Mola having studied with him.
We see the half-length portrait of a young man wearing an elaborate white collar over his dark, short-sleeved jacket. The full sleeves of his linen shirt extend below the jacket sleeves. His hair is long, dark and curly; he wears a slim mustache. His expression is severe.
Strong shadows serve to heighten the young man’s expression. Mola’s handling of the paint is typically Baroque – the skin is worked in thick, lush brushstrokes which are visible. The collar contrasts, with the paint thinly applied. This kind of technique points up the differences in texture: skin is thick, opaque; collar material is thin, translucent.