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Marsilio Cassotti and his Wife Faustina
Lotto, Lorenzo
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Lotto, Lorenzo

Venice, 1480 - Loreto, Marche, 1556

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Marsilio Cassotti and his Wife Faustina

1523. Oil on canvas.
Room 041

Having trained in Venice, probably with Giovanni Bellini, Lorenzo Lotto worked in Treviso (1503-1506), Recanati (1506- 1508) and Rome (c. 1508-1510) before settling in Bergamo.There, between 1513 and 1526, he painted for influential families such as the Tassi, Bonghi, Brembati and Cassotti.The Cassotti, wealthy textile merchants originating from Valle Imagna, used the arts to demonstrate their social ascent and patronised painters such as Andrea Previtali and Lotto. Lotto painted five works for Zanin Cassotti, a leading member of the family, of which only the two destined for his son Marsilio have survived.They are The Virgin with Saints (Rome, Galleria Nacionale d’Arte Antica) and the present portrait. Lotto described this work in a document in the following terms:‘El quadro delli retrati cioè miser Marsilio et la sposa sua con quell cupidineto, rispecto al contrefar quelli habiti di seta, scufioti e collane’. Both paintings hung in Marsilio’s apartments in the family residence on Via Pignolo in the lower part of Bergamo. Lotto was a highly talented and original portraitist.Aware of the models developed by Raphael and Giorgione, he introduced the northern type of marital portrait into Italian art, adding greater psychological depth.The present work was commissioned by Zanin Cassotti in 1523 to commemorate his son’s wedding to Faustina (probably Faustina Assonica, a member of a patrician family in Bergamo who died in 1528).While Lotto initially priced it at 30 escudos, Zanin eventually acquired it for twenty.The portrait gives visual form to the Cassotti’s social success which had now secured links with the local nobility through the marriage, hence the importance placed on the jewels and silk clothes expressly stated in the documentation.The portrait is equally rich in marriage symbolism. Cupid, identical to the one that appears in another work from the Bergamo period, Venus and Cupid (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art) is a transformation of the classical Juno Pronuba or Jugalis that Lotto would have taken from a classical Roman stela or from the Epigrammata antiquae Urbis Romae published in Bergamo by Jacopo Mazocchi in 1521. Cupid places a yoke on the shoulders of the young couple in reference to their marital obligations. From it grows laurel, the symbol of virtue and a reference to fidelity among spouses. Lotto illustrates the culminating moment of the ceremony, which is the exchange of vows when Marsilio prepares to place the wedding ring on the third finger of Faustina’s left hand, where, according to a theory that dates back at least as far as Saint Isidro of Seville (c. 530–636), a vein terminated that led directly to the heart. Faustina is dressed in red, the preferred colour for Venetian brides, and wears a pearl necklace, symbol of the woman’s submission to her husband, known at the time as the ‘vinculum amoris’. She also holds a cameo with the image of Faustina the Elder, the devoted wife of the Emperor Antoninus Pius (138–161AD) and the embodiment of the perfect spouse. As was usually the case in marriage portraits, the subordination of the woman to the man explains Faustina’s pose, which is tilted and slight lower than Marsilio’s. This iconographic reading does not, however, explain the ultimate meaning of the work. Marsilio married at the age of twenty-one (which was very young in Bergamo), a year after he was granted his independence by his father.The latter wished Lotto to depict the culminating moment of his son’s ‘caprice’, warning him in the process that marriage is always a yoke, however light: Cesare Ripa represented marriage with a yoke in his Iconology of 1618.The ironic tone of the painting, already noted by Berenson, is emphasised by Cupid’s smile, which is in principle surprising in the context of an act as solemn as a marriage ceremony.

Museo Nacional del Prado, El retrato del Renacimiento, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2008, p.228/229


Technical data

Inventory number
Lotto, Lorenzo
Marsilio Cassotti and his Wife Faustina
Height: 71 cm; Width: 84 cm
Royal Collection (Real Alcázar, Madrid, pieza donde Su Majestad dormía, 1686, s.n.; Palacio Real Nuevo, Madrid, tercera pieza de la Furriera, 1747, nº 167; Palacio del Buen Retiro, Madrid, Galería del Mediodía, 1772, nº 167).

Bibliography +

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Petrò, G, La casa di Zovanino Cassotti de Mazzoleni in via Pignolo 72, nota come Grataroli de Beni, La rivista di Bergamo, XLIII 10-11, 1992, pp. 9-16.

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Other inventories +

Inv. Felipe V, Palacio Nuevo, 1747. Núm. 167.
PINTURAS EXISTENTES ANTIGUAS [...] En la tercera pieza [...] {10386} 167 / Otra [pintura] de vnos desposorios donde hay un niño poniendo el yugo a los [¿?] original de Juan Lotus de mas de vara de largo y mas de tres quartas de cayda = mil rs

Inv. Carlos III, Buen Retiro, 1772. Núm. 167.
Galeria del Mediodia [...] [14712] 167 / Otro [retrato] de un varon y una muger en acto de desposorio Vn Cupido que les pone un iugo de vara de alto y vara y quarta de ancho

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 288.
288.-Un desposorio. / Alto 0,71. Ancho 0,84.-Lienzo. / Un personaje, vestido a la usanza del siglo XV, pone un anillo en el dedo á una dama joven y ricamente ataviada. Detras un Cupido, colocado entre ambos y sonriendo maliciosamente al varon, coloca un yugo sobre sus cuellos. El traje del novio está cubierto con un ámplio ropon de seda negra, que sólo descubre en su garganta un pequeño cuello bordado de trencilla negra, y en sus puños unos vuelos plegueteados y bordados de la misma manera. Lleva en la cabeza una voluminosa gorra negra sobre una especie de turbante de brocado de oro y negro...

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 797.
Loto (Lorenzo) / 797. Un desposorio. / Un personage vestido con el trage del siglo 15 esta poniendo un anillo a una dama joven y ricamente adornada. Un cupido se ve en algo entre ambos colocando un yugo sobre sus cuellos. En los antiguos inventarios de la casa real se dice representar este cuadro los desposorios de Fernando 5º y doña Isabel. (figuras de menos de medio cuerpo.) / Alto 2 pies, 6 pulg, 6 lin; ancho 3 pies, 2 lin.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 797.

Inv. Felipe IV, Alcázar de Madrid, 1686. Núm. s. n..
Pieza donde Su Majd dormia [...] {616} Otra Pintura de vna vara de largo y tres quartas de alto de mano de Palma que son dos figuras y vn Angel que las abraza con su marco Dorado.

Inv. María Luisa Gabriela de Saboya, Alcázar de Madrid, 1703. Núm. s. n..
De la pieza donde su Mgd. dormía se sacaron las pinturas sgtes. [...] Itt. una pintura de una vara de largo tres quartas de ancho, de mano de Palma que y son dos figuras un Angel que los abraza con su marco dorado, colocada en la pieza y inmediata a la capilla.

Inscriptions +

. L . Lotus pictor / 1523
Signed and dated. Front, upper left area

Exhibitions +

Remember me. Portraits from Dürer to Sofonisba. Forget
30.09.2021 - 16.01.2022

Lorenzo Lotto. Retratos / Portraits
07.11.2018 - 19.02.2019

Lorenzo Lotto. Portraits
19.06.2018 - 30.09.2018

La escuela veneta 'di terraferma'
14.03.2017 - 11.06.2017

Love and Marriage in Italian Renaissance Art
Fort Worth
15.03.2009 - 14.06.2009

Retratos del Renacimiento
15.10.2008 - 18.01.2009

The Renaissance Portrait
03.06.2008 - 07.09.2008

Lorenzo Lotto
02.04.1998 - 19.07.1998

Lorenzo Lotto
Washington DC
02.11.1997 - 01.03.1998

Tiziano Vecellio; Amor sacro e amor profano
20.03.1995 - 22.05.1995

Location +

Room 041 (On Display)

Update date: 25-01-2023 | Registry created on 02-12-2015

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