Anton Francesco degli Albizzi, 1525
Sebastiano del Piombo, Italian (Venetian), c. 1485/86–1547
Oil on canvas
58 × 38 7/8 in. (147.3 × 98.7 cm) Frame: 67 × 52 3/4 × 2 7/8 in. (170.2 × 134 × 7.3 cm)
The Samuel H. Kress Collection

Habits of Mind

  • DEVELOP GRIT Develop endurance / grit / desire to rework ideas / open to a range of ideas and solutions/ possess self-discipline and self-confidence

Writing Dialogue

Remember that the quality of the conversation is what is important, not finding the artist’s “answer.” Slow down and take the time to make careful observations. Talk about what you notice, and try to avoid jumping to conclusions and interpretations. Be sure to give enough time for silent looking and thinking, and be careful about making assumptions.

Curriculum Objectives

•  Draw conclusions to describe the attributes of the person depicted.

•  Write dialogues for the subjects of the painting using correct punctuation and grammar




Language Arts


Develop Grit

Connecting to the Work of Art

Anton Francesco degli Albizzi was a Florentine diplomat and a member of a prominent family.  The ambitious Albizzi supported Florence’s powerful ruling family, the Medici.  Later he became their adversary, and in 1537, he was publicly beheaded for treason by Cosimo I de’ Medici.  Albizzi probably commissioned this portrait from Sebastiano del Piombo while visiting Rome in the 1520s.


In this work, Sebastiano combines formal grandeur with a suggestion of the sitter’s personality.  The large figure of Albizzi dressed in rich clothes dominates the canvas.  Note how Albizzi’s sleeves seem to extend beyond the edges of the painting, further enhancing his stature and monumentality.  The forceful gesture of his right hand suggests control and strength.  The turn of the head and the dark, piercing eyes hint at a sharp intelligence.


During the Renaissance (1400-1550), portraits became an important subject in art, reflecting the belief in the importance of the individual and his or her relationship to other people.  The term used to describe this is “humanism,” a concept that emphasizes the worth of each individual and the importance of each person’s contribution to society.  The Renaissance world view, which saw people as capable of achievement and of controlling their own destinies, is mirrored in the development of portraits.


Sebastiano del Piombo, originally named Sebastiano Luciani, was probably born in Venice and received his early training there before arriving in Rome in 1511.  Sebastiano soon became a close friend and protégé of Michelangelo.  Sebastiano’s style, as seen in this work, combines the rich, sensuous textures of Venetian painting with the sculptural grandeur of Michelangelo’s style. He soon attracted the attention of Pope Clement VII.  In 1531, the Pope awarded Sebastiano the position of Piombo, or keeper of the papal seals, changing his name to Sebastiano del Piombo. Regardless of his title, he was always referred to simply by his first name, Sebastiano.


In his own time, as he is today, Sebastiano was greatly admired as a portraitist.  Giorgio Vasari, author of The Lives of the Artists published in 1556, wrote:


…Sebastiano, who had no equal in portrait painting… painted a portrait of the Florentine Anton Francesco degli Albizzi, who happened to be then in Rome on some business and he made it such that it appeared to be not painted but really alive; wherefore Anton Francesco sent it to Florence as a pearl of great price.¹


  1. Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects,vol. 2, translated by Gaston Du C. de Vere (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1979), p. 1313.

Conversation Starters

•  Discuss the person portrayed in the work of art.  What might they have been thinking as they posed for their portraits?  Why?

•  If the subject in the work of art could talk, what might they say?

•  How do portraitists give information about the personalities of their subjects?


•  Divide the class into groups. Discuss the portrait and have students determine as much information as they can about the individual character.

• Using these visual clues, complete a character analysis.

•  Have each group develop dialogues and dramatic presentations to share with the class.

Subject Matter Connection

coming soon

Resources Available to Order

The Art-To-Go lending library features materials that may easily be integrated across the K–12 curriculum. Resources include DVDs, music CDs, children’s books, study guides, poster sets, and collection-based interpretive materials produced by the KFEC. Educators, community leaders, and docents from throughout Texas are welcome to borrow Art-To-Go resources. To place your order, search the online catalogue and add the selected items to your basket. After you have reviewed your basket, submit the order electronically.

The Learning Through Art program at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is underwritten by:

Mercantil Commercebank

The Learning Through Art curriculum website is made possible in part by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.