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A Youth Who Is Remarkably Old

Biagio d'Antonio (Italian, active by 1472–died 1516). Portrait of a Young Man, probably ca. 1470. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931 (32.100.68)

Can you believe this painting is over five centuries old? I'm astounded by how works of art can survive over such a long period of time. As I stood in the middle of The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini, in front of this painting, I was struck by the vibrancy of the colors and the beautiful details of this fifteenth-century painting.

The artist, Biagio d'Antonio, painted the interior walls of the Sistine Chapel in collaboration with a team of artists, perhaps while Michelangelo dripped paint from above. Prior to his work in the Sistine Chapel, however, he painted this young man in 1470 with the landscape of Florence in the background. Looking closely, you can see the walls, pillared walks, and cathedral of Florence across the Arno River. Art historians believe the young man in the portrait is probably fifteen or sixteen years old.

As time passed, the identities of the portrait's painter and subject were lost. It wasn't until 1937 that this painting was finally attributed to Biagio d'Antonio. The artist was previously thought to be Botticelli, which shows the high caliber of Biagio's work.

Dirk Breiding, assistant curator of Arms and Armor, and I discuss a piece of armor related to a portrait in the exhibition. Photograph by Don Pollard.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's special exhibition of Renaissance portraits seems encyclopedic as it winds through one gallery of stunning portraits after another. As with any exhibition, some works of art stand out and speak to you while others don't.

I love studying art from the past because of the history, beauty, and the joy I feel when I'm viewing these works.

How would you describe the subject of this portrait? If you had your portrait painted, what would you want as the background?

We welcome your responses to these questions below.

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