Written by Allie Gloe, Curatorial Intern
This portrait is of wealthy, Florentine merchant Bartolomeo Compagni, who lived in London, where many other rich foreigners lived. Italians, like Compagni, were especially distinguished in import and export trade. He administered several “fund raisers” to support the war efforts of Henry VIII and handled very large amounts of money as loans and other financial services. During a visit to Florence in 1549, Pier Franceso de Jacopo Foshi painted Compagni’s three-quarter portrait and inserted the sitter’s name on the letter in the bottom left foreground of the painting. Compagni is depicted with his pen in hand, which is softly raised above his desk of letters, gold pieces and red wax (a reminder of his valuable and classified business ventures). One letter is secured by the seal of Saint George, Patron Saint of England, and serves as an indication of Compagni’s prominence in London.
Foschi painted a large amount of formal portraits during his career in Florence, where he completed other numerous commissions of great achievement. His portraits are painted in the Mannerist style and his sitters gaze directly at the viewer, such as the Bartolomeo Compagni portrait. He paints Compagni in movement, with the bottom, right half of his body facing his desk and the upper, left half of his body twisting toward the viewer. His left hand rests upon his left leg and he stares, almost free of expression.