Lorenzo Lotto rules supreme over all the works hosted in this room with his painting Ritratto di Giovane Gentiluomo nello Studio (Portrait of Young Gentlemen in his Study) aka Il Giovane Malato (The Ailing Young Man) made round 1528. The painter was born in Venice in 1480, but he soon left to seek fame and fortune in places where competition was less tough than in Venice. His found success in Bergamo, place where he spent 12 years as well as the happiest part of his career. Having acquired a strong professional ability, he decided to go back to Venice in 1525. Once back he no more knew the old Venice he had left years before, where many things had changed and the art scene was dominated by Titian. During his stay, which lasted 7 years, he managed to get only one public commission, but he got several private ones and among them several portraits. In this figurative genre the painter seems to be looking at Titian as partial inspiration: in fact he both adopts colours that are warmer than the ones, normally cold, he had been using during his time in Bergamo and dilutes the customary sharpness of the forms. Notwithstanding all this, the distance between him and his more famous colleague remains enormous both in his scope and in his approach.
Unlike Titian, Lotto aims at capturing the disposition a well as the psychology of the characters he portrays, characters that generally speaking are representatives of the rapidly ascending bourgeoisie. Just as it happens in the portrait of the young gentleman that, perhaps due to a sentimental delusion (as the rose petals, the letters, the dead bird hung on the right seem to suggest) looks as if he is ignoring the world around him in order to focus on the account book and on the petty cash, both emblems of the prosaic art of trading. In fact on the dark piece of furniture behind him you can barely see a lute and a hunting horn, both symbols of a worldly and carefree life he has discarded. In order to attract the viewer into the world of the character painted, Lotto uses a trick he systematically used in his portraits: he paints the young man’s gaze directed towards the outside so that a silent but efficacious dialogue can be established between him and the viewer. The young man’s pale and emaciated face shows sensitivity as well as torment, introversion as well as spirituality, which are at odds with the prosaic task he carrying out. It is exactly in that contrast the charm of this enigmatic character resides: he is investigated with a psychological intensity that interprets in a personal way the lesson of Leonardo on feelings and physiognomy as well as anticipates the style and ways of modern portraits.