Pompeo Batoni (Lucca 1708 - Rome 1787)
Portrait of Abbondio Rezzonico
Oil on canvas
almost 3 x 2 m
Signed and dated 1766 on the step at the bottom right, the portrait depicts the newly appointed Senator of Rome, Abbondio Rezzonico, nephew of Pope Clement XIII. The dimensions of the portrait, measuring almost three meters by two, are proportioned to the importance of the post he held, at the time the highest civil magistracy, an appointment made directly by the pope. His garment is a sampler of fabrics, ranging from the golden brocade of the mantle to the red silk garment and lace collar. The tactile rendering of the materials emerges in the heavy fringed drape folded on the table, the velvet lining the sword and the brocade of the chair. His right hand grasps a small regal ivory scepter, while the left rests on the console by the broad-brimmed hat. Then, the inkwell, bell and a letter addressed to him, perhaps some deed requiring his signature, are details that evoke the subject’s powers and responsibilities. The putto below holds a pair of scales adorned with an olive branch, the symbol of justice as the guarantee of peace. A lictor’s fasces lies on the floor, the emblem of authority in ancient Roman tradition.
The artist has devised the setting in a scenographic and symbolic way, which is far from realistic. The statue of the goddess Roma, with a spear, helmet and sphere behind Rezzonico, actually stands at the entrance to the Palazzo Senatorio, whose façade can be glimpsed closing Piazza Campidoglio. The representation follows the conventions of official portraiture, furnishing us with all the clues we need to understand who the illustrious figure is, what he does, and where he performs his duties.
The painting was acquired by the Italian state in 2016 to be exhibited in Palazzo Barberini.