National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Portrait of a Man Andrea del Castagno (painter)
Florentine, before 1419 - 1457
Portrait of a Man, c. 1450
tempera on panel
painted surface: 54.2 x 40.4 cm (21 5/16 x 15 7/8 in.) support: 55.5 x 41.2 cm (21 7/8 x 16 1/4 in.) framed: 86.4 x 74.9 x 8.9 cm (34 x 29 1/2 x 3 1/2 in.)
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
1937.1.17
On View
From the Tour: Portrait Painting in Florence in the Later 1400s
Object 3 of 6

Today, we are accustomed to meeting the gazes of men and women who look out at us from portraits, but this has not always been the case. The first independent portraits of the Renaissance presented sitters in strict profile, a pose that offered a concise likeness while maintaining a hierarchical reserve appropriate to high status. By the 1430s or so, artists in northern Europe began to adopt a three-quarter pose, which could convey a much greater sense of personality. In Italy, however, profile views continued to dominate. Perhaps their popularity was linked with profile portrait medals—very popular among Italian collectors—and with the ancient Roman coins that inspired them. In any case, Castagno's image is one of the earliest three-quarter-view portraits from Italy to survive; it is also one of only two known until the appearance of Leonardo's Ginevra de’ Benci (and another female portrait by Botticelli) some twenty-five years later.

The man's forceful personality is almost aggressively projected. His face is composed of brightly lit and sharply delineated planes, which seem almost to carve his features with palpable form. He turns a proud, animated face to hold our eye.

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