Portrait of a gentleman with a falcon by Niccolò dell’Abbate

In portraiture dell’ Abate was a canny observer of the interior life of his subjects, managing to suggest something of the uniqueness of their psychology. The north Italian aristocrat portrayed here has an almost indecisive air at odds with his masterful pose and sporty regalia. Dell’ Abate clearly empathised with this equivocal quality, which he so subtly translates into paint.

Nicolo dell’ Abate was an Emilian painter active in Modena, Bologna and ultimately the Fontainebleau of Henry II of France, where he worked with his compatriot, the equally gifted Primaristocrataticcio. He was associated with, rather than central to, the mannerist movement which was virtually a European court style in the first half of the sixteenth century. It was in the newly independent genre of landscape that dell’ Abate made his most enduring contribution to the history of Western art. His classically inspired landscapes are staffed by elegant figures and typified by pastoral themes pre-empting those of Poussin and Claude.

Title: Portrait of a gentleman with a falcon
Creator: Nicolò dell’Abate
Date Created: circa 1548- 1550
Physical Dimensions: 107.5 x 84.5 cm stretcher; 139.5 x 117.0 x 8.0 cm frame
Type: Painting
Rights: Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation Purchase 1991
Medium: oil on canvas
Signature & Date: Not signed. Not dated.
Object Other Titles: Portrait of a gentleman, half length, wearing a black coat with grey sleeves and a hat, a falcon perched on his finger
Artist Country: Italy, France

Niccolò dell’Abbate
1512 – 1571

Niccolò dell’Abbate, was an Italian Mannerist painter in fresco and oils He was of the Emilian school, and was part of the team of artists called the School of Fontainebleau that introduced the Italianate Renaissance to France.

He trained together with Alberto Fontana in the studio of Antonio Begarelli, a local Modenese sculptor; early influences included Ferrarese painters such as Garofalo and Dosso Dossi He specialized in long friezes with secular and mythological subjects, including for the Palazzo dei Beccherie (1537); in various rooms of the Rocca di Scandiano owned by the counts Boiardo he created 12 frescoes, one for each book of The Aenid, and notably a courtly ceiling Concert composed of a ring of young musicians seen in perspective, Sotto in Su (early 1540s), and the Hercules Room in the Rocca Meli Lupi at Soragna (c 1540–43), and possibly the loggia frescoes removed from Palazzo Casotti at Reggio Emilia

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His style was modified by exposure to Correggio and Parmigianino, when he moved to Bologna in 1547 In Bologna, most of his painting depicted elaborate landscapes and aristocratic genre scenes of hunting and courtly loves, often paralleled in mythologic narratives It was during this time that he decorated the Palazzo Poggi, and executed a cycle of frescoes illustrating Orlando Furioso in the ducal palace at Sassuolo, near Modena Bologna is also the location of his illustrations for Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, and where he was celebrated in a sonnet which compares him to Raphael and Titian among others One of his early pieces that cemented his reputation was the Martyrdom of St Peter and St Paul, in the church of the abbey of San Pietro, Modena

Niccolò is best known for his mythological landscape subjects, which introduced the Flemish world landscape into French art, such as the Orpheus and Landscape with the Death of Eurydice in the National Gallery, London and the Rape of Prosperine in the Louvre, and for his profuse and elegant drawings Not many of his frescoes have survived; however the Louvre does have a collection of his drawings Many of his canvasses were burnt in 1643, by the Austrian regent, Anne Some of his landscapes for Charles IX were influential for the 17th century painters Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin