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Italian, Portrait of a Young Man

Key facts
Full title Portrait of a Young Man
Artist Italian
Date made 19th century
Medium and support Tempera on wood
Dimensions 55.9 × 43.8 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by the Misses Cohen as part of the John Samuel collection, 1906
Inventory number NG2084
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Portrait of a Young Man

This portrait was bequeathed to the National Gallery as a work by the fifteenth-century Florentine painter Pietro Pollaiuolo; its former owners were unaware that it is in fact a nineteenth-century forgery.

Whoever painted it was clearly trying to imitate fifteenth-century Florentine portraiture; it might have been intended to pass as a Botticelli. The dark background, the costume and the hairstyle do indeed resemble our portrait of a young man painted by Botticelli in the 1480s. The reverse was even painted to make it look like marble – a decorative effect often found on Renaissance portraits, intended to recall marble tombs and, so, the frailty of life.

Botticelli was a hugely popular artist in the late nineteenth century, when he was rediscovered and celebrated by art critics. The painter of this picture might have made it to take advantage of tourists to Italy and their desire for pictures by the artist.

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