Born in Albino, near Bergamo, in the first half of the 1520s, he received his education in Moretto’s workshop in Brescia. Giovan Battista Moroni made his debut with his own works in Trento in the mid-1540s. It was in Trento, crowded out in those years with participants at the Council, that the painter first saw examples of international portraiture. Very soon, he too was able to convey the manner and spirit of these paintings.
When Moroni returned to Bergamo, he flanked his considerable output of sacred works with a prolific activity as a portraitist. Indeed, he became in a way the “official” portraitist of the Bergamo nobility. Well introduced into the cultured pro-Spanish circles which revolved around the poetess Isotta Brembati, the second wife of the man depicted, Moroni made portraits of many of its members. He followed the style and formulas of international Mannerist portraiture, following Mor and Titian, who were models (Titian’s Philip II is one example) for the painting shown here.
The Cavaliere in Rosa is perhaps the most famous example of the artist’s courtly works. In view of the social level of those portrayed, the sometimes rustic realism of his early years has disappeared, but he was well able to describe a reality which he makes no attempt to idealise. Moroni makes these “official” portraits, in which each element has its own precise meaning, come alive. Each detail is designed to convey the social position and prestige of the sitter: this can be seen in the preciousness of the attire, minutely examined in all its qualities, the haughty pose with the proud gesture of the hand placed on the hilt of the sword, the sumptuous colours, the precious materials and the setting which is in a certain sense official.