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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 Not on display
Narcissus
Follower of Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio
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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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