Monday 16 November 2015

Leonardo Loredan

Leonardo Loredan, born on this day in 1436, was Doge of Venice for 20 turbulent years at the start of the 16th century. He is best known to posterity for Giovanni Bellini's superb portrait of him, one of the treasures of the National Gallery. At first glance this portrait seems stiff, formalised, hieratic - a conventional picture of the office (and the ceremonial dress) rather than the man - but on closer inspection it reveals itself to be very much the likeness of an individual, rendered with an acutely observant eye, an expert brush and a high degree of psychological penetration.
 Earlier portraits of Doges were produced to a formula and showed little real individuality; they were also in unrevealing profile, rather than full face. Bellini's Loredan, by contrast, is startlingly lifelike and individual - a speaking likeness, one of the earliest 'modern' portraits. Loredan already, at the outset of his reign, looks careworn, but he also looks as if he means business and would have few scruples about achieving his ends. You wouldn't be surprised to see that face on the streets of Venice today - and you wouldn't particularly want to meet the man behind it...


  1. The physiognomy for an early sketch of Blofeld maybe?

  2. Yes - pity Bellini didn't have room for the cat!

  3. To see the pinnacle of Bellini's reading of the human condition visit the Uffizi and stand transfixed in front of his Lamentaion. One of the unsung wonders of Italian renaissance art.