Although it was included in the 1957 Italian edition of Berenson's lists, this fine and characteristic portrait of a cleric by Titian is otherwise unpublished. It has, however, been examined by a number of scholars, both in the original and in photographs, and the attribution to the artist is accepted by among others Mauro Lucco, Alessandro Ballarin and Bernard Aikema, who were consulted in the past, and by Peter Humfrey, who has recently examined the original.
The picture is clearly a relatively late work, many scholars placing it in the later 1550s, a date which is consistent with the artist's use of a woven canvas of diagonal weave, although Giorgio Tagliaferro considers it could be of the previous decade. The Thyssen portrait of Doge Francesco Venier now in Madrid (H. Wethey, The Paintings of Titian, London, 1971, II, no. 184, as of 1554-6) is directly comparable in style, as Jennifer Fletcher agrees; and, as Antonio Mazzotta points out, the picture is comparable with a portrait at Copenhagen (op. cit., no. 96, as 'Scholar with a Black Beard', dated about 1550). By this advanced stage of his career Titian did not need stray portrait commissions and the picture is presumably of a sitter who was of some importance for the artist. The canvas has been reduced, but the portrait was not necessarily of the generous half-length format, showing at least one hand, which Titian and many of his patrons seem to have preferred.