Portrait of a Gentleman
Ugo Celada da Virgilio (1895-1995)
20th century, Oil on panel
In some ways, the art of Ugo Celada and the artist himself remain enigmatic; he has been historically neglected by critics and written histories, both because of his shy character and, above all, because of the difficulty of framing his career within the canonical discourse about artistic developments in the last century. Born in 1895 in Cerese, an area of Borgo Virgilio in the municipality of Mantova, Celada added the place name to his surname in the manner of the old masters. During his long career, he produced sensual nudes, realistic portraits, quiet still lifes, and even landscapes. He distinguished himself most of all, however, in the genre of portraiture, and was acclaimed amongst both a vast public and private collectors, primarily members of the industrial upper middle class, especially from Milan, who turned to him when they wanted to be painted in the style and attitudes of princes, grande dames, and cardinals of the Baroque era. The Portrait of a Gentleman in the collection also references courtly and Renaissance models, with the almost full-length figure shown in three-quarter view, regally seated on an imposing chair, the armrest of which is embellished with refined carving, an indicator of rank and wealth. The identity of the sitter is unknown, which is the case for the majority of the many portraits by Celada circulating on the market.