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Leone Battista Alberti, among the most broadly talented men of the Renaissance, is
celebrated for his treatises on painting, sculpture, and architecture. He was also accomplished in
the fields of law, philosophy, mathematics, and science. Besides experimenting with painting and
sculpture, he designed great churches in the north Italian cities of Rimini and Mantua, whose
rulers he advised on the arts. He also served as architectural advisor to Pope Nicholas V.

This bronze is probably cast from a wax model, in a shape and design inspired by an ancient
Roman carved gem. The folds around the neck suggest classical drapery. The closely cropped
cap of hair can be associated both with Roman and mid-fifteenth-century styles. Its fluffy tufts
recall the mane of Alberti's namesake, the lion (leone).

The clean, continuous lines, proudly lifted head, and distant gaze give Alberti's features a
noble, idealized character. Under his chin is his personal emblem, a winged eye. Alberti wrote of
the eye as the most powerful, swift, and worthy of human parts, reminding us to be ever vigilant
in the pursuit of what is good. The image is also meant to represent the all-seeing eye of
God.

Details

  • Title: Self-Portrait
  • Date Created: c. 1435
  • Physical Dimensions: w13.5 x h20.1 cm (overall)
  • Type: Sculpture
  • Rights: Samuel H. Kress Collection
  • External Link: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • Medium: bronze
  • Theme: self, bust facing left
  • School: Florentine
  • Provenance: Vicomte de Janzé, Paris; (his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 16 April 1866, no. 41); Charles Timbal, Paris; Gustave Dreyfus [1837-1914], Paris; his estate; purchased 1930 by (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London and New York); purchased 1944 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1957 to NGA.
  • Artist: Leone Battista Alberti

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