Pope Paul III and his Grandsons
was painted by the Italian Renaissance
between 1545-1546 on oil and canvas. The painting portrays the aged Pope Paul III
sitting, with his grandson Ottavio Farnese, Duke of Parma
kneeling at his left, and, behind him on the right, his other grandson Alessandro
donning the cardinal dress.The Italian title of the painting can be translated as "Pope Paul III and his Nephews", but they weren't nephews in a biological sense. The Italian term nipote
means "nephew", but in this context is a euphemism.
It is housed in the Gallerie di Capodimonte
, Italy, and has been described as masterpiece of "psychological art".
Paul III is shown as old and visibly frail, but still powerful and alert. He is dressed in full pomp, and the painting is set at an angle that has him looking down at the viewer. His dark eyes omit a piercing glare, while the regal red of his robes is in rhythm with and echoed by the velvet of his chair and the hanging curtain.
The portrait is noteworthy for the rendering of the characters: the pope, ill and tired, looks at Ottavio with an accusative expression, and in turn the duke's kneeling act looks merely formal. Alessandro has instead a distracted mood. The background, the mellow colors and the heavy brushstrokes contribute to communicate an anxious atmosphere.