Daniele Barbaro, Patriarch of AquileiaCa. 1545. Oil on canvas, 81 x 69 cm.
Described by Lodovico Dolce as a gentleman of great merit and infinite goodness, Daniele Barbaro (1513-1570) was from a noble Venetian family. He was educated to the highest level first in Verona and then at Padua University. A philosopher of neo-Aristotelian leanings, he became friends with important Venetian humanists, some of whom were also portrayed by Titian, such as Pietro Bembo (Washington, National Gallery of Art), and Benedetto Varchi (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum). In 1545 he was appointed supervisor of the construction of the botanical gardens in Padua, the start of a flourishing career in the service of the Republic of Venice which culminated between 1548 and 1550 with his appointment as Ambassador to the Court of Edward VI in England. On his return to Venice in 1551 he was made Patriarch of Aquilea. Around 1566 Paolo Veronese painted his portrait (Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum) showing him proudly displaying the work which brought him most fame during his own lifetime: his commentaries on Vitruvius´ treatise on architecture (Venice, 1556). In the 1550s Barbaro was not just a theoretician but also a practising architect, designing a palace for Camillo Trevisan in Murano in 1555.
On II March 1545, Paulo Giovio wrote to Pietro Aretino asking him to request from Titian on his behalf a portrait of Daniele Barbaro for his Museo. This has been identified as the painting in Ottawa (National Gallery) which features the name DANIEL BARBARUS, a logical inclusion given the iconographic nature of the display. The Ottawa portrait is identical to the Prado canvas but of inferior quality and given its practically identical size (the Ottawa painting measures 85 x 71 cm) it is likely that Titian painted both works at the same time. We also know that Barbaro was painted in 1548 by Paolo Pase, a pupil of Titian´s.
This portrait was painted when he was a humanist little known outside intellectual circles and is of a surprising simplicity. It shows him as a scholar, hence the only object featured with the sitter is a book, the identity of which is unclear. Given the date of the portrait and the success of the commentary on Aristotle, it seems logical to presume that this is the book that Barbaro holds in his left hand. Despite the sobriety of the composition, its influence on contemporary works by Jacopo Tintoretto has been noted, such as the Portrait of a Young Man (Hampton Court, Royal Collection).
Carlo Ridolfi cited a portrait of Daniele Barbaro in Antwerp in the possession of Lucas van Uffel (who died in 1637), undoubtedly the same painting engraved by Wenzel Hollar in 1650 when it belonged to Johannes and Jacob van Veerle, also in Antwerp. These dates imply the need for care when attempting to relate it to the painting now in the Museo del Prado, bought in London in 1651 by David Teniers the Younger for 1500 Florins for the Conde de Fuensaldaña, who sent it to Luis de Haro. Haro must have given it to Philip IV as it is documented in 1666 in the Pasillo que llaman de la Madonna in the Alcazar in Madrid. It entered the collection of the Museo del Prado in 1843 (Text drawn from Falomir, M.: Tiziano, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2003, pp. 373-374).