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Proceedings Paper

How did Leonardo perceive himself? Metric iconography of da Vinci's self-portraits
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Paper Abstract

Some eighteen portraits are now recognized of Leonardo in old age, consolidating the impression from his bestestablished self-portrait of an old man with long white hair and beard. However, his appearance when younger is generally regarded as unknown, although he was described as very beautiful as a youth. Application of the principles of metric iconography, the study of the quantitative analysis of the painted images, provides an avenue for the identification of other portraits that may be proposed as valid portraits of Leonardo during various stages of his life, by himself and by his contemporaries. Overall, this approach identifies portraits of Leonardo by Verrocchio, Raphael, Botticelli, and others. Beyond this physiognomic analysis, Leonardo's first known drawing provides further insight into his core motivations. Topographic considerations make clear that the drawing is of the hills behind Vinci with a view overlooking the rocky promontory of the town and the plain stretching out before it. The outcroppings in the foreground bear a striking resemblance to those of his unique composition, 'The Virgin of the Rocks', suggesting a deep childhood appreciation of this wild terrain. and an identification with that religious man of the mountains, John the Baptist, who was also the topic of Leonardo's last known painting. Following this trail leads to a line of possible selfportraits continuing the age-regression concept back to a self view at about two years of age.

Paper Details

Date Published: 18 February 2010
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 7527, Human Vision and Electronic Imaging XV, 75271D (18 February 2010); doi: 10.1117/12.846850
Show Author Affiliations
Christopher W. Tyler, The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7527:
Human Vision and Electronic Imaging XV
Bernice E. Rogowitz; Thrasyvoulos N. Pappas, Editor(s)

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