Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Antonio Niccolini Sirigatti, 1725 

Thomas Gibson (c.1680-1751)

Portrait of Antonio Niccolini Sirigatti, 1725, Thomas Gibson
Oil on canvas
18th Century
Betterriss collection 1930s
We are grateful to Fr. Ronald Creighton-Jobe Chaplain of the Tuscan Order of Saint Stephen for his assistance in identifying the sitter in this painting.

The naval and military Order of St Stephen was established in 1554 with the double intention of safeguarding Italian maritime commerce from the depredations of pirates and of protecting western Mediterranean Christendom from the Ottoman Empire. To this end they protected Christian - and especially Italian - shipping from their base on the island of Elba throughout two centuries. By the early eighteenth century - the date of this portrait - their martial character was lessened, and young noblemen were inducted into the order to learn the knightly-monastic virtues of a chivalric order. By the time this portrait it would seem that the order had a character in common with most others in Europe marked by the prestige of membership and by its close associations with the Medici ruling house of Tuscany in its twilight years.

The sitter in this portrait has been identified as Antonio Niccolini Sirigatti, a member of the order whose character was marked by his interest in the physical sciences and with philosophy which was pursued to a degree that displeased both the Jesuits and the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Niccolini Sirigatti found himself under the displeasure of both to a degree that required him often to travel abroad, when no dount this portrait was painted. Gibson certainly did not travel to Italy, and could only have been in England when he painted this magnificent study of costume and deportment. The suit is, indeed, specifically English of its date in cut, and is an invaluable guide to the student of costume of the newest mode of 1725. Every detail of the embroidered waistcoat and cuffs is rendered with a shimmering precision, almost in trompe-l’oeuil, which is enhanced by the superb condition of the paint surface, and even the softer pigment of the blue velvet coat have survived intact. The jewel hanging on a red ribbon around his neck is rendered with sparkling precision in which the painter simulates the cluster of red stones that make up the cross of the Order.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.