National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Portrait of a Youth Filippino Lippi (painter)
Florentine, 1457 - 1504
Portrait of a Youth, c. 1485
oil and tempera on panel
overall: 52.1 x 36.5 cm (20 1/2 x 14 3/8 in.) framed: 90.8 x 71.8 x 15.2 cm (35 3/4 x 28 1/4 x 6 in.)
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
1937.1.20
On View
From the Tour: Portrait Painting in Florence in the Later 1400s
Object 6 of 6

Opinion about this young man varies. To some viewers he has appeared "alert, spirited," his face "lively and full of strength." He has been called the perfect model of Florentine youth, noble and intelligent. But others see him as "coarse and sensual," perhaps cruel. Although he turns toward us almost full-face, he gazes past us. None of these speculations about character would have been possible about a profile portrait; until sitters turned to reveal their faces, their portraits were more about their status than about themselves. Florence was proud of its republican government—even if, in practice, the city was ruled by the Medici. Not surprisingly, in other cities with more princely, autocratic courts—in Milan or Mantua, for example—profiles continued to be used for ruling families, even while men and women of lower rank had themselves portrayed in ways that presented them as individual personalities.

Filippino Lippi was the son of painter Fra Filippo Lippi. After his father's death, Filippino studied with Botticelli, who earlier had been the elder Lippi's pupil. Botticelli had a profound influence on Filippino's style, and indeed the Washington portrait is so similar to the work of Botticelli that debate persists over its artist's identity. Although it has been attributed more often to Botticelli, the National Gallery gives the portrait to Filippino because the youth's facial structure so closely resembles that of other figures he painted.

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