Three characters in Lyon (I)

It is an ideal morning for writing as the sun is up but the streets keep the smell of the rain. So here I go trying to introduce to you three characters I met on my trip to Lyon. First one today

Unlike the real characters I share with you sometimes, unlike the real emotions I joggle with, this one is a story about painted characters not less impressive, nor less intense. In one interview, the Romanian painter Stefan Caltia used to say that he would not want his works on the walls of people who have nothing to talk to his characters. I kept this one in mind as I often talk to the characters on display in my home.

Federico Barocci (1532-1612)- Portrait d'un gentilhomme


It is a standard composition with a man bust, dressed under the fashion of that century, placed in the middle of the paiting, on a dark background. In a relatively common posture, the man is not completely facing us, he is slightly turned under a 15-30° position which can be considered as a typical way of representing men. That is because male characters were supposed not to be defenseless in front of those looking at the portrait and keeping a reserved attitude in their posture was considered a hint of their social status. The white collar and his face are the only two elements enlightened in the painting thus completely imposing a direct dialogue with the central character. To be noted: there is a fine light aura interposed between the character and the background.

Character analysis

As in real life, analyzing others shifts from external to internal details. As I said above, his clothes are relevant for that period when contrasting fabrics, slashes, embroidery, and applied trims where meant to imply oppulence. However we might be tempted to infer that he is not one of the richest since no golden details dettach as it is the case in other paintings of that century or that this particular gentleman prefers a life of measure and rigor. The latter is reinforced by the monchromatics of his garments although it was not uncommon for men in the 16th century to wear more colours in their costumes, including white, grey, red.  His front is wide, his eyes are sparking and powerful, his nose is slightly dilated and his lips are thin. He wears a beard which was also common in the 1500, under a variety of models, but which can also be interpreted as a further sign of malehood and strength.


Of course, it is an opera aperta. Everybody is free to project in him whatever they like. As far as I am concerned, if he was a real life character, he would seem to me bright (see that aura I told you about earlier on? it acts as a sort of enlightenment of the spirit), fierce, a bit proud and a bit rigid. I infer unflexibility from his closed mouth and dilated nose. It tells me "I am a man of few words and strong convictions" but it also promises an openness towards dialogue concerning measure, free will, religion and principle. That is what I would talk to him about... The little veins slightly perceivable on the left rim of his front suggest me that he likes to impose his opinions and his glance suggests that he is thoroughfully considering his conversational counterpart before engaging as he is reluctant to the merits of others until proven.

Please stay tuned to see... Lucretia.