Late 18th Century
Portrait of a Gentleman in Levantine Dress

Oil on canvas
Image size: 19¾ x 16½ inches
Carved gilt frame

Painted during the late-eighteenth century, this striking and colourful portrait depicts a middle-aged gentleman richly dressed in an exotic Levantine costume. The portrait is highly accomplished and strongly reminiscent of the work of the 18th century Austrian-Italian portraitist and history painter Giovanni Battista Lampi, otherwise known as Johann Baptist Lampi the Elder.The son of fresco painter Matteo Lampi, Giovanni Battista Lampi was born in Romeno in 1751.

He studied under his father from an early age in Salzburg and Verona before moving to Trento in 1773 to complete his training. In 1786, he was appointed as professor at the Vienna Academy by the Habsburg Emperor, Joseph II, and went on to gain great acclaim as a portraitist to royalty over his career, working at the royal and imperial courts in Vienna, Warsaw and St. Petersburg.

This fine work displays the same luminescent qualities that can be seen in paintings by Lampi and the artist appears to have been well aware of the master’s style. The skin tones have been carefully blended over strong red undertones to create a luminescent and life-like depiction of flesh. The artist also displays a keen eye for perspective and has picked out all the different elements of the man’s costume and the way they catch the light in beautiful detail, particularly the turquoise plume on the top of his turban and the golden fastening chain of his fur-lined cloak. The fashion for dressing in Levantine costume was extremely popular in courts across Europe during the 18th century: the sitter is evidently a man of considerable means, who was keen to display his wealth and worldly knowledge through the fantastical magnificence of his costume.


– Ribeiro. A. Dress in Eighteenth-Century Europe:  1715-89, London, (2002).

(See in particular pp.264-272 for a discussion of the popularity the of Turkish costume in Europe.)- Ribeiro A. ‘Turquerie: Turkish Dress and English Fashion in the Eighteenth Century’, in The Connoisseur, vol. 20, (May 1979).

– Williams, H. Turquerie: An Eighteenth-Century European Fantasy, London, (2014)