Saturday, February 11, 2006


Ansa has a story questioning whether the famous Leonardo da Vinci self portrait is really the man himself.
Professor Pietro Marani, who teaches art history at Milan's Polytechnic University and has written several books on the artist, says Leonardo almost certainly looked quite different .
"Studies of the drawing style date it to about 1490, when he would have been 48," said Marani, who spent 15 years overseeing the restoration of Leonardo's famous fresco The Last Supper in Milan .
The face depicted on the yellowed paper is not that of a 48-year-old, he argues, pointing out that contemporaries described Leonardo as a handsome, energetic figure, not an old man .
"I don't question the fact that it was done by him. But I'm convinced the features aren't his. It's more likely to be a study for the head of one of the apostles in The Last Supper," he said .
A quick look at The Last Supper in the Refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie reveals in fact that the head of the penultimate apostle on the right, Simon, bears a striking resemblance to the Leonardo 'self-portrait' .
As for the inscription on the back of the drawing, which was written about a century later, Marani argued it was wholly inconclusive. The only legible word was 'Leonardo' while the rest was too smudged to read. The professor noted that doubts have been raised before over the identity of the subject, by eminent figures such as Carlo Pedretti, the world's top Leonardo expert .
Legendary art historian Ernst Gombrich noted that features such as the wide, wrinkled forehead, the aquiline nose and the protruding lower lip often appear in the artist's work .
"The Turin head," wrote Gombrich, an authority on the Renaissance, "could be the personification of one of Leonardo's favourite human types." Prof. Marani noted that the common conviction that the drawing showed Leonardo himself arose soon after it reached public notice in the early 19th century .

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