(b. 1445, Firenze, d. 1510, Firenze)

Portrait of Giuliano de' Medici

Tempera on panel, 76 x 53 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

This is perhaps the most authentic portrait of Giuliano, assuming that it was painted in the lifetime of Giuliano. However, the death symbols (the dove sitting on the dead branch and the half-open door) on the picture seem to contradict this assumption.

The portrait of Giuliano de' Medici (1453-1478), the younger brother of Lorenzo the Magnificent, is turned to the right and there are no less than three known version of it. Giuliano had been killed on 26 April 1478, while mass was being celebrated in Florence Cathedral, during the course of an attack made by the Pazzi family, who were the Medicis' rivals for power and banking business.

Botticelli placed this portrait in a most skilful relationship with the framing forms. In the background, one window shutter is open, allowing us to see the blue sky, and the other is behind the subjects bowed head. The dove by the window jamb is a symbol of loyalty, and for this reason it is thought that Giuliano commissioned this portrait following the death of his courtly love, Simonetta.