Ottavio Leoni, Self-portrait, an engraving

Italy, AD 1625

Ottavio Leoni (1578-1630) was one of the most fashionable and successful portraitist working in Rome during the first thirty years of the seventeenth century. He favoured black, red and white chalk on tinted paper, for numerous portrait drawings; his painted portraits have unfortunately not survived. In the last decade of his life he produced some forty etched or engraved portraits, and had clearly planned more that remained unrealized at his death.

This signed and dated engraved self-portrait is characteristic of his unostentatious style. It combines extreme technical refinement with a simple pose. The hair, moustache, goatee beard and eyebrows display an effortless naturalism. Most astonishing is the stipple which not only models the flesh with great subtlety, but also defines the large moist eyes, the nose, the mouth, and the profile of his cheek, without employing any lines. Leoni must have tapped the point of his burin into the copper, knowing exactly how each mark would print.

Leoni's genius as a portraitist is revealed above all by the vivid sense of an individual personality, comfortable with himself and at ease with the artist observing him. His portraits always emit this atmosphere.

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More information


J.T. Spike, Baroque portraiture in Italy: (John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, 1984)

S.W. Reed and R. Wallace, Italian etchers of the Renaiss (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1989)


Height: 145.000 mm
Width: 110.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1853-6-11-229 (Bartsch XVII. 249.9)



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