National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION

Tour: Portrait Painting in Florence in the Later 1400s

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image of Ginevra de' Benci [obverse] image of Wreath of Laurel, Palm, and Juniper with a Scroll inscribed Virtutem Forma Decorat [reverse] image of Portrait of a Man
1 2 3
image of Portrait of Lorenzo di Credi image of Portrait of a Youth image of Portrait of a Youth
4 5 6
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Overview

It is hard to imagine a world without images of living people, but in western Europe portraiture had essentially disappeared with the collapse of Roman civilization. Only such figures as saints, the Virgin and child, and angels—or devils and the anonymous damned—were depicted in paint (although rulers, in imitation of Roman and Byzantine emperors, might put a generic profile on coins). It has been suggested that physical appearance was not a particularly important element of self-image or even a primary means of identification in the Middle Ages. Station in life, family and local affiliations, occupation—these were how people knew themselves and others. But by the time these paintings were made between about 1450 and 1500, a thousand years after the fall of ancient Rome, notions about identity and the individual had changed.

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Captions

1.
1Leonardo da Vinci, Ginevra de' Benci [obverse], c. 1474/1478
2Leonardo da Vinci, Wreath of Laurel, Palm, and Juniper with a Scroll inscribed Virtutem Forma Decorat [reverse], c. 1474/1478
3Andrea del Castagno, Portrait of a Man, c. 1450
4Pietro Perugino, Portrait of Lorenzo di Credi, 1488
5Agnolo di Domenico del Mazziere or Donnino di Domenico del Mazziere, Portrait of a Youth, c. 1495/1500
6Filippino Lippi, Portrait of a Youth, c. 1485