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“A Man with a Quilted Sleeve” by Titian

Titian - Portrait of a man with a quilted sleeve

“A Man with a Quilted Sleeve” by Titian

“A Man with a Quilted Sleeve” by Titian depicts a man turning to look at the viewer over his shoulder and momentarily meets our gaze. The viewer’s attention is drawn to the raised brow above his right eye, centered midway across the picture.

It is one of Titian’s earliest portraits and shows the man’s elbow resting on a parapet with his quilted sleeve projecting over the parapet barrier, creating a sense of projecting his physical presence into ours.

Placing a ledge between the subject and the viewer was a common feature of early Renaissance Italian portraits as a useful way of depicting portraits at less than full-length.

Titian’s innovation was to have the large sleeve project slightly beyond the parapet to subvert the usual barrier and project the subject into the perceived viewer’s space.

With the head slightly atilt and an eyebrow appearing raised, the turning pose, exactly halfway across the composition, adds life and drama.

The spiral motion in depth of the head and sleeve are brilliantly painted, and the merging of the shadowed parts of the figure with the atmospheric background is one of the most influential aspects of the painting.

This painting was critical in developing the Italian Renaissance portrait, which was then being led by Venice. The confident gaze of this figure was adapted from paintings of religious subjects.

Rembrandt, who saw the painting in Amsterdam before it moved to France and then England, borrowed this pose in several of his self-portraits.

This novel and effective pose become highly influential in European portraiture, perhaps most famously serving as a model for many painters.

Titian - Portrait of a man with a quilted sleeve

Rembrandt, Self-portrait leaning on a Sill, etching, 1639

Though the quality of the painting has always been praised, there has been much debate about the sitter’s identity.

It was long thought to be a portrait of poet Ludovico Ariosto, then a self-portrait, but more recently a Portrait of Gerolamo Barbarigo.

From at least the 1630s until the late 19th century, it was thought to be Ariosto’s portrait, but all modern critics dismiss this. It does not resemble other portraits of Ludovico Ariosto.

It was first suggested in 1895 that it portrays a man from the Barbarigo family, which was then at the height of its power and had supplied two Doges of Venice in succession from 1485–1501.

Gerolamo Barberigo, who was thirty in 1509 when the portrait was painted, has been chosen as the most likely family member to be represented. 

Others have thought that the painting might be a self-portrait by Titian, but there are no other certain portraits from before Titian’s old age to compare the likeness.

The pose is convenient for a right-handed artist painting himself in a mirror. Also, the convex mirrors of the day may account for the slightly lofty air of the subject, who is looking down his nose at the viewer.

Titian became known as a portrait painter and might have made this painting to advertise his skill to clients by having a self-portrait to show them.

A Man with a Quilted Sleeve

  • Title:               A Man with a Quilted Sleeve
  • Also:               Portrait of Gerolamo Barbarigo or The Man with the Blue Sleeve
  • Artist:             Titian
  • Created:        1510
  • Media:           oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:  Height: 81.2 cm (31.9 in); Width: 66.3 cm (26.1 in)
  • Museum:       The National Gallery, London


The artist of this masterpiece, Titian, was the most famous painter of the 16th-century Venetian school.

So much so that his contemporaries recognized him as one of the most accomplished painters, adept with portraits, landscape, and mythological and religious subjects.

His application and use of color, his vivid, luminous tints, his brushwork, and subtlety of tone had a profound influence on Western art.


Titian, Portrait of a Man or Man With a Quilted Sleeve

A Tour of the National Gallery

15th Century Paintings

Titian’s Early Portraits

16th Century Paintings

Titian: Love, Desire, Death


“The painter must always seek the essence of things, always represent the essential characteristics and emotions of the person he is painting.”
– Titian


Photo Credit:1)Titian, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. : Rembrandt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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