This family portrait was given little attention until recently, when technical analysis revealed an overpainted inscription, which has now been uncovered during restoration work. Subsequent scholarly research has unearthed the identities of the depicted figures. It has also become clear that beyond its straightforward portrayal of three generations, the painting tells a fascinating story which revolves around the little boy depicted on the right: Antonio Maggi. Standing at his side is Carlo Maggi, who commissioned the painting from Jacopo Tintoretto around 1575. In the years before, he had travelled the eastern Levant as an agent for the Republic of Venice. On one of his missions, he was taken captive by the Ottomans on Cyprus and eventually ransomed by Christian merchants. Back home in Venice, Carlos’ wife gave birth to little Antonio at a point in time well into her husband’s travels and captivity. Although Carlo could not possibly be the biological father, he accepted him as his stepson, even making him his sole heir – to the keen displeasure of his relatives. With this portrait, then, Carlo commissioned Tintoretto and his workshop to create nothing less than a painted declaration intended to endow legitimacy to his blended family.
For more details on the painting and its historical context cf. Johanna Pawis, New discoveries: insights into research on Veneto, Giorgione and Tintoretto at the Alte Pinakothek’, in Venezia 500<<. The Gentle Revolution of Venetian Painting, Exhibition Catalogue, A. Schumacher (ed.), pp. 128–153, 246–251, Munich: Hirmer Publishers 2023.