Ranuccio Farnese’s serious expression and formal costume contrast with his fresh-faced youthfulness. The work was painted when the twelve-year-old Farnese was sent by his grandfather, Pope Paul III, to become prior, or head of house, of a property belonging to the elite Knights of Malta, a religious order. He wears the Maltese cross on his robe. Ranuccio went on to craft an illustrious ecclesiastical career. Titian offers hints of the sitter’s future success with the resolute set of the boy’s shoulders and surprising sense of possession for one so young.