This great canvas, one of Van Dyck’s most sophisticated works, represents the patrician Marcello Durazzo and is the pendant to another painting picturing his wife Caterina. Originally the pair was in the collection of the Durazzo, one of the most important noble families in Genoa. After various turns of events, the paintings were separated: the portrait of Marcello was purchased by baron Giorgio Franchetti at the end of the nineteenth century, placed in the Ca’ d’Oro and exhibited along with the masterpieces of the Galleria, while the portrait of Caterina remained initially in the family palace and then followed the fate of the furniture, which was acquired by the Savoy and transferred to the Royal Palace in Turin.
The painting is datable between 1621 and 1627, the years of Van Dyck’s in Genoa, in which the master made a substantial impression in Italian baroque painting.
The portrait uses dark colors, following the Spanish-influenced fashion of the time, with sophisticated modulations of blacks and browns, which interact with the red curtain in the background, which in turns opens to reveal a view of the sky streaked by clouds, an evident homage to the Venetian pictorial tradition.
At the beginning of its restoration, the painting showed the presence of widespread inconsistent glazing, overpainting, and inpainting, carried out over the original surface. A line of filler, now removed, extended in the center for the entire length of the painting, creating a significant visual disturbance.
Most of the damage was probably caused by an intervention carried out before the painting was put up for sale on the antiquarian market. After that, the painting was subject to two restoration interventions in the 1940s and 1970s, which however failed to recreate the original color tone.
The present restoration intervention was supported by Venetian Heritage in collaboration with Michelangelo Foundation, Arthemisia and Marco Voena.