by Alexandra Tuschka
The older man's swollen eyes look at us kindly. Only his folded arms betray a certain distance. He has propped them up just enough on the lower edge of the picture. One does not really like to decide whether he looks serene or inviting. This pose and the strong close-up view are unusual, especially for the 15th century. The posture of the folded arms comes from the iconography of the suffering Christ.
That the sitter here likes to drink a little too much can be seen in his eyes. He is also badly shaved and the clothes he wears have seen better days. The work was probably created after the death of the jester, who lived at the Court d'Est.
An aristocratic portrait would not have allowed this casual attitude - here we are dealing with the court jester Gonella, by far the most popular court jester figure in Italy. Many anecdotes tell of the jester's coarse and sarcastic humor. The identity is not clearly established. Since there are numerous anecdotes about the jester, researchers assume that there must have been two or three court jesters with similar names. The authorship of the work is not completely clear. After Jan van Eyck and Giovanni Bellini, the work is now attributed to Jean Fouquet, a French book and panel painter.
Jean Fouquet (attributed) - The court jester Gonella
Oil on oak, c. 1445, 36x24 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna