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Palma Vecchio, Portrait of a Poet

Key facts
Full title Portrait of a Poet
Artist Palma Vecchio
Artist dates about 1480 - 1528
Date made about 1516
Medium and support Oil on canvas, transferred from wood, 1857, remounted on wood, 1916
Dimensions 83.8 × 63.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1860
Inventory number NG636
Location Room 29
Collection Main Collection
Portrait of a Poet
Palma Vecchio

This thoughtful man, probably in his late twenties, is richly dressed in a costume dating from about 1516. He holds a rosary and his hand rests on a book tied with blue ribbons. Round his neck is a type of gold chain worn by the minor nobility.

The book and the laurels behind him suggest that he may have been a poet. The laurel tree was the attribute of Apollo, Roman god of poetry and music, and poets were traditionally crowned with laurel leaves.

It was previously believed that the portrait represents the poet Lodovico Ariosto (1474–1533), who wrote the epic poem Orlando Furioso, published for the first time in 1516. However, Ariosto would have been 41 or 42 in 1516, which seems too old for the man in this painting, and he does not resemble descriptions of Ariosto’s appearance.

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