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Cardinal Lelio BisciaEnlarge image

Cardinal Lelio Biscia, c. 1630

Andrea Sacchi
Italian, 1599 - 1661
oil on canvas
134.3 x 99.7 cm
Purchased 1911
National Gallery of Canada (no. 305)

Biscia’s attention is divided between paper and viewer, suggesting that he has just received a letter or a petition. The effect is similar to Bernini’s work from this period: both artists capture a moment of action in which viewer and sitter engage one another. Sacchi deliberately chose not to fully finish the painting; its spontaneity is more contrived than it appears. The degree of finish depended upon taste and a painting’s function: this work would have appealed to connoisseurs. Sacchi kept it for his own collection of portraits of his patrons. His assistants likely produced a more finished version for the cardinal. A grid of lines is faintly visible across the surface: the grid would have helped a painter produce a copy.

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