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Follower of Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, Narcissus

Key facts
Full title Narcissus
Artist Follower of Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio
Artist dates about 1467 - 1516
Date made probably about 1500
Medium and support Oil on walnut
Dimensions 23.2 × 26.5 cm
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2673
Location On loan: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, Hong Kong Palace Museum, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Follower of Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio

In Greek mythology, Narcissus was an outstandingly beautiful young man who fell in love with his own reflection in a woodland pool, eventually pining away with unrequited passion. This tiny picture shows him dressed elegantly and with a wreath of leaves in his hair, gazing into a still basin of water. It is unusual for Narcissus to be shown in contemporary dress – he is more usually depicted as a classical hunter or a beautiful, naked youth.

This painting and another version of it (Uffizi, Florence) were done by an artist close to Boltraffio, one of Leonardo da Vinci’s most talented followers; both pictures recall Boltraffio’s drawings of the profiles of an idealised youth with flowing hair and a wreath. These perhaps hark back to an original by Leonardo, reflecting the poetic culture of the Milanese court during the 1490s.

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