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in Medieval European Paintings
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Cardinal Bandinello Sauli, His Secretary, and Two Geographers

oil on panel transferred to canvas, 121.8 x 150.4 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Samuel H. Kress Collection


by Sebastiano Del Piombo (b. 1485, Venezia, d. 1547, Roma)

The table in Cardinal Bandinello Sauli's portrait is a display of personal symbols. His name on the Sanctus bell rung at Mass emphasizes his vocation and the open geographical text his intellectual interests. The "Lotto" carpet symbolizes his wealth, elite social status, and refined artistic taste. Its twisted fringes indicate minimal wear. Italians usually kept their best carpets in chests, displaying them on special occasions.

This is the earliest known depiction of this particular Turkish carpet pattern. In the nineteenth century, carpet patterns were named after various European artists who had painted them with meticulous detail. Venetian Lorenzo Lotto depicted the field pattern on Sauli's carpet twice, once framed by similar borders. Other carpet patterns were named after Hans Holbein and Hans Memling.