In Greek mythology, Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. It is unusual for him to be given modern dress and for the pool to be a raised basin. The painting may be a poetic portrait and the pool an afterthought.
The type of effeminate male beauty, the loose curls and the distant lake are all derived from the work of Leonardo da Vinci. Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio was Leonardo's main pupil in Milan.