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Painting of the Week: Portrait of A Man in Red Chalk (aka Leonardo da Vinci)


Painting of the Week: Portrait of A Man in Red Chalk (aka Leonardo da Vinci)

Hello, it’s me,  I was wondering if after all these years (exactly 566 today) you’d like to meet…

Leonardo da Vinci, Portrait of a man in red chalk, c.1512, Portrait of A Man in Red Chalk

Leonardo da Vinci, Portrait of a man in red chalk, c.1512, Biblioteca Reale, Turin

I guess it’s a cult portrait by now, probably almost everyone knows my face. It’s kind of awkward, though, that I made such a grumpy expression (some people say that it’s because I don’t have two front teeth, but well…). Usually I’m not grumpy at all, I like coming up with new games and toys, and since I’m a big boy, I make big toys, like war machines and stuff…

I’m especially proud of my long beard on this portrait. Renaissance men did not usually grow such long beards, but since it’s symbolic of sagacity I picked it… As I turned 60 in 1512, I thought it suited me..

Nobody really paid much attention to this drawing until the nineteenth century when scholars realized that I looked very similar to my other portraits: in Raphael’s The School of Athens and in the frontispiece of Vasari’s second edition of The Lives of the Artists.

Some people say, however, that it’s not my self-portrait. They believe that the man portrayed looks older than 60 and hence he could rather be my father Piero da Vinci or my uncle Francesco, as they both lived until the age of 80. I won’t tell you the truth, as you know I really like riddles, hihihi, so you have to make your own judgment. Or rather a guess, since you can’t see this drawing live: it’s too fragile and in a too poor condition to be viewed.

Anyway, happy birthday to me! I’m going to celebrate by coming up with a yet another groundbreaking project, wish me luck!

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Magda, art historian and Italianist, she writes about art because she cannot make it herself. She loves committed and political artists like Ai Weiwei or the Futurists; like Joseph Beuys she believes that art can change us and we can change the world.


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