The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini #5

Left: Botticelli, Portrait of Michele Marullo Tarcaniota (c.1490)
Right: Self-portrait detail from Adoration of the Magi (1475)

Continuing our series in honor of the Metropolitan Museum's current exhibition of Renaissance portraits we have Botticelli's portrait of Michele Marullo Tarcaniota on the left compared to Botticelli's earlier self-portrait on the right. Tarcaniota's portrait is hanging  today in the Met's exhibition with no mention that it might not be a good likeness. Yet a respected scholar, Frank Zöllner, noted twenty years ago that Botticelli's own contemporaries had doubts about his portraits. It was said that "Lippi and Sandro Botticelli often repeated their own physiognomies in almost any face in their paintings because they simply could not avoid painting themselves."  Zöllner himself went on to conclude that "the visual evidence seems to confirm that in fact both Filippo Lippi and Sandro Botticelli painted themselves."1 Seeing these two faces side by side with their long noses, wavy lips and square chins who can doubt it?  


1. Zöllner, “ ‘Ogni Pittore Dipinge Sé’: Léonardo da Vinci and ‘Automimesis’ ”, Künstler über sich in seinem Werk, ed. M. Winner (Weinheim: VCT Acta Humanoria) 1992, pp. 139

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