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Video transcript

Male: If Masaccio were to come in to this gallery to see his painting, which he painted in 1426 for a church in Pisa, he would be most surprised to see this painting hanging on the wall the way we see it today. It was painted to be on the top of a very large altar complex, some 15-16 feet tall. Works of art had functions. They had reasons for existence, both for the people who commissioned them, that is, the people who actually paid for the painting from the artist as well as for the artist himself. This is one of the earliest portraits in the Getty Museum. It's by an artist named Sebastiano del Piombo. We know the name of the sitter. It was painted for Pope Clement VII, who was a Medici pope, who commissioned Michelangelo and Raphael to do works of art for him. This picture is painted on a slab of slate. It weighs about 60 pounds. Clement VII, as Sebastiano, were both aware that slates would somehow last forever, so the concept of an eternal portrait became even more significant by the selection of the support which the artist was then to paint on. If Sebastiano's portrait of Clement VII was meant to be seen as a very formal state portrait presented to a public, who might not have known him personally, Pontormo's portrait of an anonymous young man from the same time is a very different thing indeed. Pontormo's "Halberdier" presents himself in a very specific way. He wants to be seen not only as a soldier possibly protecting whatever fort he is standing in front of, but he is also very subconsciously presenting himself as a man of fashion, a man as conscious of his small waist and his clothing, as he is of anything else. He wears these marvelous red pantaloons with a matching beret, a hat with a small hat badge on it, what's called an "insignia," that depicts Hercules and Antaeus in it made by jewelers specifically for men. This particular sitter has found the perfect artist to represent him. This is a portrait by Van Dyck of Agostino Pallavicini, one of the noblemen of Genoa. It was a portrait obviously painted to impress not only Agostino Pallavicini but anybody who looked at the picture, as well as to advertise the fact that Van Dyck was newly installed in Genoa and ready to paint portraits of its local inhabitants. I think Van Dyck has really presented here a tour de force of painting of red silk and red satin, from the table cover to the garments that Pallavicini wears. But somehow, he doesn't lose sight that Pallavicini is a human being. My hope is that a museum goer will look at portraits and be aware that they were commissioned by specific individuals from individual artists at a given moment in time, that they want to depict themselves in a very certain way, that they want to preserve themselves for posterity.