This sympathetic portrait is of particular interest as a likeness of one Austrian neoclassical painter by another. The artist, Martin Knoller, studied at the Vienna Akademie under Paul Troger and Michael Angelo Unterberger from 1751-3 and traveled to Rome and Naples at the age of 30 for additional training. While in Rome, he came into contact with Pompeo Batoni, Anton Raphael Mengs, and Anton von Maron - the sitter for the present portrait - whose classically-inspired works made a lasting impact on Knoller's art. Von Maron spent most of his life in Italy and, from 1756-61, served as Mengs' pupil and assistant in Rome. He is best known for his depictions of Grand Tourists, often set against distant views of Rome and accompanied by fragments of antique sculpture in the manner of Batoni.
Knoller's style can generally be described as a synthesis of powerful baroque coloring and a classically drawn and executed composition. His portraiture style was greatly influenced by Mengs, as is evident in the present work. With its simplicity and economy of composition, the painting focuses the observer's attention on the direct and friendly countenance of the sitter, who is depicted in three-quarter view as though turning to meet our gaze. The plain, mossy green of the background complements the deep red and golden yellow of his coat, with textures and fabrics skillfully suggested. While approximately seventy portraits by Knoller have been documented, few of them are presently accounted for.
Another, larger portrait of the same sitter is in the collection of the Pinacoteca di Brera (62.5 x 49 cm.; fig. 1).