Bindo Altoviti – Raphael

Bindo Altoviti

Bindo Altoviti. Raphael (1483 – 1520)

This painting is by far my absolute favorite portrait. I could stare at Raphael‘s masterful technique for hours. I’m especially struck – as my friend will testify since I point it out every time we go to the National Gallery to see it – by the incredible way Raphael painted the sitter’s hair. No matter how closely you zoom in on this painting, you can’t see any brushstrokes and the hair looks so lifelike that you can imagine the softness if you were to run your fingers through those golden locks.

Clearly I’m not the only one captivated by this portrait. Writers David Brown and Jane Van Nimmen wrote an entire book about it: Raphael and the Beautiful Banker: The Story of the Bindo Altoviti Portrait. Bindo Altoviti was a wealthy Italian banker. The portrait was said to be painted for his bride, Flammetta. Some critics disdained it (which goes to show you what critics know), and over the years there were allegations that it wasn’t painted by Raphael, or that it wasn’t actually Bindo Altoviti but a self-portrait of the artist. At one point it even had to be reclaimed out of Nazi Germany. I’m just grateful that it’s now on public display in the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. so that everyone who has a chance can see this astounding portrait for themselves.

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