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Giovanni da Oriolo, Leonello d'Este

Key facts
Full title Leonello d'Este
Artist Giovanni da Oriolo
Artist dates active 1439; died by 1474
Date made probably about 1447
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 57.6 × 39.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Inscribed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1867
Inventory number NG770
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Leonello d'Este
Giovanni da Oriolo

The inscription at the top of this picture tells us this is a portrait of Leonello d’Este, Marquis of Ferrara. Leonello succeeded his father in 1441 and this picture was painted six years later. It shows him in profile, drawing attention to his sloping forehead and distinctive long nose – according to Leonardo da Vinci, the profile view was the most easily remembered. It was first fashionable in the courts of France and Burgundy and became popular in Italy until about 1470.

Leonello may have asked to be painted in profile in order to associate himself with Roman coins stamped with the heads of emperors. Like any educated nobleman of his day, Leonello was particularly interested in the art and literature of antiquity and so this connection would have pleased him. Oriolo has signed the picture along the bottom edge but he has had to squeeze in the ’s' of his first name, Giovanni, signed here in Latin: IOHANNIS.

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