Giovanni Lo Coco, Self-Portrait, fresco, 1713-1715, Convent of San Biagio, Acireale. (Photo Credit: Aurelio Grasso).

Frescoed in a lunette of the cloister of the convent of San Biagio in Acireale, this Self-Portrait shows Lo Coco wearing a fashionable dress with an ample wig, reddened cheeks and a palette held in his left hand, emerging from the tondo that encircles him. The inscription reading “GIOVANNI LO COCO IACITANO PINGEVA 1715”, attests to the completion of the San Biagio decorative campaign which had started in 1713. The clothing suggest the artist’s aristocratic background, a hypothesis that seems supported by the fact that Lo Coco was sent to Rome to study painting in the workshop of Pietro Aquila. To this end, his upbringing draws comparisons with that of Juan Fernandez de Navarrete who, thanks to his family, travelled to Italy from 1558 to 1565. The Self-Portrait frescoed by Lo Coco suggests confidence in the directness of its gaze toward the spectator. The palette that bursts through the frame is a conventional attribute in painted self-portraiture, where artists typically paint themselves while looking in a mirror. Lo Coco does not include his right hand because it would diminish the scale of his portrait if it were to fit in the medallion. The absence of a robust volumetric style is common in eighteenth-century painting, where sitters are more likely to have an air of wit rather than force or determination.