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Domenico Beccafumi (Montaperti, Siena 1486 circa-Siena 1551)

Oil on paper affixed to wood
32x24,5 cm
1890 n. 1731

This bearded man, with his head wrapped in a white turban-like cloth, is the Sienese painter Domenico Beccafumi, who is also the author of the painting. The whole composition is based on the contrast between the white of the headdress and collar, the ochre of the complexion, and the various brown tones that punctuate the beard, the hair, the clothing and the dark background. The artist defines his shapes with broad brush strokes and very fluid painting. It is precisely the sudden flashes of light, interwoven with deep shadows, that give the protagonist an extraordinary vividness: note, for example, the way in which his forehead, cheekbones and long nose line are highlighted.

This self-portrait was acquired by Cardinal Leopold de' Medici to increase his collection dedicated to this type of paintings. The practice of collecting artists' self-portraits was in vogue among courts during the 16th and 17th century, but Cardinal Leopold's collection stood out both for the number of paintings - eighty pieces were surveyed at his death - and for the scrupulousness with which the specimens were selected, acquired and exhibited. The collection, thanks to its specificity and to the attention devoted to it by the cardinal's descendants, continued to be enriched over time and today has become an 'open' collection that includes both paintings donated by living authors and self-portraits from earlier periods, intended to chronologically complement the pre-existing series.


D. Sanminiatelli, Domenico Beccafumi, Milano, 1967, p. 124; E. Baccheschi, L’opera completa del Beccafumi, con presentazione di G. Briganti, Milano, 1977, collana i  “Classici dell’arte” n.90, p. 97; F. S. Santoro in, Giovanni Agosti, Domenico Beccafumi e il suo tempo, Milano, 1990, pp. 166-167, n. 24; P. Torriti, Beccafumi, con contributi critici di M. Di Giampaolo, G. Fattorini, F. Fumi Cambi Gato et alii, Milano 1998, p. 272 n. D64.

Text by
Anna Bisceglia
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