He gazes at us with a beguiling directness, as if he has overheard us talking about him and wants us to know. He appears confident in his everyday clothes, with no need of the accoutrements of status to shore him up. His head is tilted slightly, his hair cropped short and a beard and moustache give him the look of any young man you might see on the streets of London today – no silly hat with an ostrich plume for our no-nonsense tailor. I always thought it was Caravaggio who coined the portraits of ordinary people performing the manual labours of quotidian life but this tailor predates Caravaggio's work by a good twenty years. There he is, living and breathing, his mind churning, on the gallery wall collapsing time – you can almost hear the sound of his shears cutting through the marked out cloth, feel the velvet beneath his fingers. The effect is utterly disarming.
So imagine my delight when I discovered that the Royal Academy were to put on an entire exhibition of his work and I would be able to encounter all the images, the fuzzy cousins of which I had scrutinised online. Work in reproduction can never satisfy like the real thing, it is flattened, divested of life, offering only a partial experience, like Plato's shadows. But to see the body of Moroni's work, the early paintings, mostly devotional: a pastel Christ hovering on candy-floss clouds; a serious man praying before the virgin; an ancient, goitered woman gazing at a prayer book, all revealing an attention to detail and humanity that is the precursor to his later portraits.
The Exhibition is on only until 25th January and I urge you to go.