Leonardo da Vinci’s famous self-portrait is being shown to the public for the very first time this summer in Rome. Normally preserved in the Royal Library of Turin’s vault and rarely visible to the public, the painting is on display at the Capitoline Museum until August 3.
Titled L’Autoritratto (Self-portrait), the exhibition includes information about life of the Florentine genius as well as the fascinating, and at times controversial, facts surrounding the self-portrait. The room where the artwork is displayed is also monitored by a climate box that maintains a stable temperature and humidity and sends information to the Royal Library about the artwork’s condition.
The self-portrait, produced in 1510 using the sanguigna or red chalk technique, established Leonardo as a ‘Renaissance man.’ Believed to have been completed when Leonardo was 60 years old, it depicts him with long hair and a flowing beard, which were uncommon in Renaissance portraits. The eyes do not face the viewer but are focused to the right, with a serious expression. It was only in the nineteenth century that the drawing was assumed to be a self-portrait of da Vinci.
As it is in a fragile condition, the artwork underwent several tests in Rome’s ICRCPAL lab in order to verify that it was fit to transport safely. Given the difficulties in moving the masterpiece from its location, such an exhibition is unlikely to be repeated, thereby giving visitors the brief but exceptional chance to see it first-hand.