Titian, Ranuccio Farnese, 1542. Oil on canvas, 35" x 29."
I generally avoid talking about portraits in "Paintings I Like," because there's no way to avoid a psychological interpretation - I'm really more comfortable talking about painting stuff. But of the many portraits in the big Venetian renaissance show at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, this one really stood out.
Ranuccio was the grandson of Pope Paul III (whose portrait also hung in the show), and the boy is depicted wearing a costume of wealth and position that would befit a scion of the powerful Farnese clan. But that face, that face! It's haughty, it's ambivalent, it's alert, and just a little frightened, and all of these varied emotions are probably what a twelve-year-old would be feeling if thrust into such a position. And the costuming: all just a little too big and accessorized with things that are preposterous on such a young boy; most notably the sword and cod piece.
It's a picture of a child in his dad's clothes doing his best to live up to the expectations associated with the costume, and Titian, to his great credit, managed to capture all of the conflicting emotions that the boy was almost certainly feeling.