Portrait of a Musician

A significant portrait made by Leonardo in Milan

Ritratto di Musico by Leonardo da VinciVeneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana

This slender panel, showing a young musician holding a partition sheet and a pen in his hand, is today universally attributed to Leonardo da Vinci.

However, until the early 20th century, there was uncertainty regarding both the subject and the artist.

The ancient Ambrosiana documents generically refer to a "dottore" or to a "duke of Milan".

Indeed, in the 19th century the mysterious figure in the painting was identified as Leonardo's patron while staying in Milan, the Duke Ludovico il Moro.

But this was simply because the bottom right-hand corner of the panel had been covered by an over-painting in the seventheenth century, concealing the hand with the sheet with the musical notation.

In 1905 a meticulous restoration work eliminated the over-painting and revealed the hand with the sheet of music. Then, a more generic title of "Portrait of a Musician" began to be used.

We still do not know for certain who this young man was. Some scholars have pointed out this might be a portrait of Franchino Gaffurio, or of Josquin des Prez, both famous musicians active in the Milan of Ludovico il Moro. However, for neither of them do we have documentation suggesting direct contacts with Leonardo.

More recently, art historians have proposed a new assumption: this might be a portrait of Atalante Migliorotti, a Tuscan Musician who was a friend of Leonardo's and who came with him to the Duke's court in Milan as a skilled lyrist and singer.

It is worth noting that, in a list of sketches to take to Milan drafted on a paper of the Codex Atlanticus, Leonardo mentions a "portrait of Atalante".

This would suggest that the Ambrosiana's Musician, dating to 1485, just after Leonardo's arrival in Milan, might be a painting made after that sketch, to immortalize a friend.

Art historians have also pointed to the similarities between this panel and the firts version of "The Virgin of the Rocks" and, in more general terms, with the style of his last Florentine works.

Examples of this can be seen in the strong chiaroscuro and in the sculptural dimension of the portrait.

Credits: Story

Collegio dei Dottori della Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana

Monsignor Alberto Rocca
Direttore della Pinacoteca Ambrosiana

Monsignor Francesco Braschi
Dottore della Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana

Ufficio mostre ed eventi:
Elena Fontana
Michele Figlioli
Carolina Donzelli

Referenti Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana per il progetto Google Arts&Culture:
Michele Figlioli
Carolina Donzelli

Creazione stories e editing testi:
Federica Lamberti con la supervisione di Carolina Donzelli

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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