Painted in 1512, this self-portrait was drafted in red chalk, and it was produced when Leonardo Da Vinci was around 50 years old living in France. It is currently located in Turin, in the Biblioteca Reale.
This vanishing piece became a famous stereotype of the Renaissance man, and one of the most iconic images of Leonardo Da Vinci. Because Da Vinci looks older than he would have been when he produced the portrait, some researchers question the real identity of the man on the drawing. It could be not a self-portrait, but a portrait of someone else.
Another reason to raise doubts about the real identity of the man on the illustration is the fact that the long hair and beard was a common way of portraying philosophers, prophets or even God himself. Leonardo Da Vinci could be painting God, or, as some studies suggest, he would be producing a self-portrait where he would be comparing himself to a divine figure.
Because of the chosen media (chalk), the portrait is fragile and fading, and a lot of research is currently being developed in efforts to save the piece. The original is currently accommodated in a special room inside the Royal Library, on a secured underground with reinforced doors, where no natural light can get in, and the temperature is kept at 20 degrees.
The drawing depicts a head staring the viewer, pictured on the common for the Renaissance period three-quarter view. The long hair and wavy beard frame the face of the old man. The waves on the hair and beard are very flowy but at the same time follow an organized almost geometrical pattern. As we move to the center of the figure, it’s possible to observe more details and also more contrast. The left part of the old man’s face has deep dark wrinkles and creases while to the right of the face; the whole figure lightens up while contrast fades and merges with the hair and the background paper.
The deep eyes and intense gaze are a powerful detail of the drawing. The heavy eyebrows shade shape the eyes giving the figure an atmosphere of dignity.
There is a myth that says that the gaze in this painting is so intense and powerful that those who stare into his eyes are granted with exceptional strength.
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