This striking example of Passarotti's 'rhetorical' portraiture was described by the artist's biographer Malvasia: 'non figurandoli fermi e insensati, ma in azione e in moto, e perció coll'operazione animandoli ed istoriandoli' (see 1678 edition, G. P. Zanotti, Felsina Pittrice vite De 'Pittori Bolognesi, Bologna, 1841 , I, p. 191). The sitter gazes boldly at the viewer while his hand points to the barrel on which he rests his left arm, thus appearing simultaneously stoic and poised to act. Passarotti uses a similar device in his Portrait of a man playing with his dog (Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, inv. 936). The sitter's costume suggests this portrait dates to the late 1570s, when Passarotti, along with Orazio Samacchini and Prospero Fontana, was involved in commissions for the cathedral in Cremona.