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Rethinking Giovanni Battista Moroni: the “Sacred Portraits”

 

Fredrika H. Jacobs

 

By one recent count, no less than 120 portraits have been attributed to the north Italian painter Giovanni Battista Moroni (ca. 1521/1524-1579/1580). Among them are three sacred portraits, paintings that depict their sitters offering devotion to holy figures. This paper considers whether or not the sacred portraits can be seen as constituting a discrete category of portraiture, as has been proposed. Additionally, it examines the degree to which each work deviates from the established norms of devotional painting, thus revealing Moroni’s creative capacity, while calling on scholars to rethink the artist’s contribution to sixteenth-century Italian painting.