This famous painting is often thought to be a self-portrait of the Renaissance master Raphael . During World War II, the Germans stole the painting from Poland. Many historians consider it the most important missing painting since World War II. It is suggested that, if found, the painting would be worth more than $100 million.
Scholars have compared the facial structure of the subject in Portrait of a Young Man with the only confirmed self-portrait of Raphael, in the fresco The School of Athens. The masterpiece depicts an upper-class male subject, painted in Mannerist expressions with an upright poise, luxurious textures, and the softened form inspired by the great Leonardo da Vinci. The colors of his sumptuous fur coat are reflected in the patterned rug that lies behind him, colored in shades of green and brown. Many scholars have described the subject as "serene with confidence" in appearance. He represented the upper classes that were spreading across Italy in the early 16th century.
Through the window to the right of the piece, the viewer can see trees and green bushes, and beyond, the silhouette of the town and the church. The white buildings are offset by the misty blue sky, although it should be noted that there are no color photographs of the piece; all photographs in Portrait of a Young Man have been digitally colorized.
Raphael depicts in this work a neoclassical dichotomy between humanity and nature through the flesh-colored wall, the lavishly draped fur over the subject's shoulder, and his dark, wavy hair. It is also suggested that Raphael portrayed the variability between the genders through the tape of the sleeve and the placement of the subject's hands, as these were typically female elements in portrait works of the time.
Placing the subject's left hand close to the heart suggests a self-identity and a strong posture, suggesting an air of firm serenity.
The lost painting of Portrait of a Young Man
In 1798, Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, son of Princess Isabella Czartoyska , purchased Portrait of a Young Man . He brought the painting to Poland, along with da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine and various Roman antiquities. The portrait was put on display in the princess's private museum, which sought to preserve pieces of art depicting important events in Polish history.
In 1939, after learning of the impending Nazi invasion, the family patriarch, Prince Augustyn Jozef Czartoryski, rescued several works of art from the museum and hid them in a residence in Sieniawa. Unfortunately, their efforts were in vain, as the pieces were discovered and confiscated by the Gestapo. Paintings - Portrait of a Young Man , Lady with an Ermine and a painting by Rembrandt - decorated the house of Hans Frank, whom Hitler had appointed Governor of the General Government.
The artworks were then shipped to Berlin and Dresden before finally arriving in Linz, where they would become part of Hitler's private collection. However, Frank took the pieces home to Krakow in 1945, for his personal use at Wawel Castle. This is the last place where the Portrait of a Young Man could be seen.
Lost since that time, the painting has been known to modern scholars only from photographs. Without being able to examine the original painting, it is difficult to conclusively confirm or refute the attribution of the portrait to Raphael, which became a traditional topic of debate in the 19th century.
Modern art history, unable to study the painting itself, has necessarily repeated the attribution made by earlier scholars who had the opportunity to see the original before the work was lost during World War II.
Although the "Portrait Of A Young Man" typology originated in Northern Italy, it also shows the influence of Northern European artists. This type of portrait recalls the earlier work of Bellini , Giorgione , and Titian .
The work was also influenced by the early Dutch painters, Durer and Leonardo . The portrait under discussion is not Umbrian or Florentine, the traditions in which Raphael was trained. It has a range of qualities typical of paintings from the 1520s and later, precursors to Mannerist portraiture (analogies in the portraits of Sebastiano del Piombo, Moretto da Brescia, Lorenzo Lotto, Salviati or Pontormo and Parmigianino).
The "Portrait of a Young Man" aroused interest in the years after Raphael's death, and there are several known copies. Hence the theory suggested that this is the image of the artist, rather than that of an unknown young man painted by himself.
The classical and idealized beauty of the model, which features a uomo ideale , indicates that it may be a posthumous likeness of the "divine Raphael" executed in ommaggio of the dead artist. Thus, we would have here a "Portrait of Raphael" but painted by Raphael himself (in Italian it is the same expression: "ritratto di Raffaello").
Whether this is really the work of Raphael himself will for now be a mystery that will remain unsolved. There is evidence pointing to Giulio Romano or Sebastiano del Piombo. The latter was the most fashionable portrait painter of the Eternal City in the second and third decades of the 16th century. He knew Raphael well and was Michelangelo 's protégé.
Ultimately, only an examination of the original work will be able to determine once and for all the true authorship of this exquisite Renaissance portrait.
Unfortunately, the Portrait of a Young Man was not in Wawel Castle when US troops arrested Governor Frank for war crimes he had committed, and with it the painting was lost forever, though there is hope that it will be found. in some forgotten vault that will be discovered at some point.
Portrait Of A Young Man is ranked no. 76 on the list of famous paintings
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