With measurements of 124 cm by 90 cm, the image is of medium oil on canvas size and can be found in private collection in Florence.
Barberini, who was 30 years old coming from the prominent Florentine Barberini family, was a fast rising church minister. He was a friend of Caravaggio’s patron Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte and he was a poet and patron of the arts. Barberini support lasted for a long time up to 1603 when he commissioned a Sacrifice of Isaac from Caravaggio.
Born in 1568, Maffeo Barberini became a priest between 1623 and 1644 as Urban VIII. During the 1590s, Barberini was in the process of developing his career at the Papal Curia in Rome. In the process, he became Protonotaro Apostolico in 1593 and Chierico di Camera in 1598.
The portrait of Maffeo Barberini 1598 was referred to by Mancini for portraits painted for him by Caravaggio and Bellori to a single painting of him by the artist. However, it’s still difficult to identify the works in question with confidence. The portrait of Maffeo Barberini 1598 consisting of flowers and clear colouring does have certain similarities with Caravaggio’s early Roman-style. Nevertheless, it seems to be rather unoriginally composed.
The portrait of Maffeo Barberini 1598 together with the pendant, has been credibly connected with a document of July 1604, recording a payment by Barberini for two unspecified paintings to Nicodemo Ferrucci, who was a pupil of Passignano.
The portrait of Maffeo Barberini in the Florence private collection looks a more dramatic and undeniably innovatory work. The portrait has a powerful contrapposto evoking Michelangelo’s prophets, but also suitably arousing a mood of business-like ability, with Barberini visibly giving orders with his right hand while his left-hand holds a memo in his left hand.
The characteristics possibly indicate that the portrait was painted some time after Barberini was appointed to the important administrative post of Chierico di Camera. The foreshortened ear in the image is a useful identifying characteristic in most of Caravaggio’s work. However, it should be noted that there is nothing that refers openly to a portrait by Caravaggio in the published Maffeo Barberini archives.