PISANELLO
(b. 1395, Pisa, d. 1455, Roma)

Filippo Maria Visconti

1440s
Charcoal and chalk on paper, 291 x 198 mm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Filippo Maria Visconti (1392-1447) was the ruler of the duchy of Milan. He was reclusive, overweight, and walked with difficulty. Self-conscious about his unattractive appearance he took to wearing a sort of caftan, and he covered his head, which he shaved at the back, with a hat or turban. He did not want to be portrayed by anyone, with the exception of Pisanello, who was able to turn Visconti's excessive corpulence into an asset used to convey a sense of strength and determination. Of the images Pisanello made of him, a medal and a black chalk drawing survive. The two works are not related, it is probable that both portraits are based on a lost common source.

The unusually high degree of finish and the exceptional subtlety of the modeling suggest that the drawing may have been done as an independent work of art, as a model for use in producing other likenesses.




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