Is There Any Painting Of The Young Leonardo da Vinci?

Most of the paintings that we see and know of Leonardo da Vinci are usually of an older man with a long white beard. We do not know if there was a painting of Leonardo da Vinci when he was young.

There is a painting by Giovanni Cariani (c. 1490-1547) at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, called Portrait of Man With a Dog (1520) that some people have said is a painting of the younger Leonardo. Leonardo would have already been dead by the time this painting was completed. There is also a little-known artwork called Romanzo di Paolo e Daria by Gaspare Visconti that some feel is making fun of Leonardo da Vinci and his red hair.

Leonardo da Vinci – Physical Characteristics

We do not have a lot of information bout Leonardo da Vinci’s life, including his younger days. Even though Leonardo left us with a lot of his writings, he did not leave us with a lot of his personal beliefs, feelings, or thoughts.

We do not record how he thought about love, life, God, sexuality, and marriage. We know he was never married and had no children. There is a record of him being accused of sodomy.

We also do not have any known portraits of him in his younger days. Most of the portraits we have are of him in his older days.

But here are some of the physical characteristics that we do know about Leonardo da Vinci:

  • Tall – Leonardo was said to be tall for his time. He was about 5’ 7” based on the length of his purported skeleton. That would have been considered tall for his time.
  • Athletic – He was also described as having a muscular physique. He was known to have great strength and dexterity.
  • Handsome – Records of people who spoke about him talk about a man considered to be very striking and attractive.
  • Clothing – He was known to wear bright-colored clothing. When most men wore long garments, he was known to prefer short tunics as worn by much younger men.
  • Hair – We know he had a long beard and hair. In a time when many men cut their hair, he did not and kept it long and flowing. Some people have said he could have red hair, but we are not sure about his hair color.

Vasari, who knew Leonardo and wrote about him, said this about Leonardo da Vinci’s physical characteristics:

“This was seen by all mankind in Leonardo da Vinci, in whom, besides a beauty of body never sufficiently extolled, there was an infinite grace in all his actions; and so great was his genius, and such its growth, that to whatever difficulties he turned his mind, he solved them with ease. In him was great bodily strength, joined to dexterity, with a spirit and courage ever royal and magnanimous; and the fame of his name so increased, that not only in his lifetime was he held in esteem, but his reputation became even greater among posterity after his death.”

Giorgio Vasari – Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects

We can see from this description that Leonardo da Vinci was considered very handsome during his lifetime.

Possible Portraits of Young Leonardo da Vinci

When we talk about the portraits of the young Leonardo da Vinci, there are generally two referred to, i.e., Gaspare Viscount’s Romanazo di Pacio e Darai and Portrait of Man With Dog by Giovanni Cariani.

All these possible portraits have not been 100% verified; we feel the one by Visconti may be the more real account than Carani.

Romanzo di Paolo e Daria (1495) By Gaspare Visconti (1461-1499)

Romanzo di Paolo e Daria (1495) By Gaspare Visconti

Leonardo was said to be a handsome and extraordinary genius. But recently, another view has surfaced with the painting of Romanzo di Paolo e Daria by Gaspare Visconti.

The other side of the story is that other artists teased Leonardo for having red hair and his unconventional sexuality (many think he was gay as he was denounced for sodomy).

The Author Simon Hewitt unearthed an image held in Germany that is a kind of “comic strip” design made in 1495 that many historians believed was produced to make fun of Leonardo.

In one of the images, the redhead cleric is left-handed; the cleric is said to represent Leonardo da Vinci. Also at his feet is a wooden lyre; the lyre was Leonardo da Vinci’s father’s instrument.

There is also a paper at the table young Leonardo is standing; this was said to symbolize the courts denouncing Leonardo for sodomy.

Being red-headed in 15th-century Milan was very rare, and people with red hair were almost thought to be freaks. Leonardo’s hair color and sexual tendencies would be one of the reasons they were mocking him.

There is a very good chance that this painting could be of Leonardo. But he would not have sat for this painting, so it is not meant to be an exact likeness. Visconti was trying to make fun of Leonardo in this artwork and not paint a portrait of him.

Portrait of Man With Dog, (c.1520) By Giovanni Cariani

Portrait of Man With Dog, (c.1520) By Giovanni Cariani

In a painting at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC entitled Portrait of Man with Dog (c.1520) by the Venetian Cariani, a young man is holding a small dog; many feel this painting looks a lot like Leonardo da Vinci in his younger days.

People on the internet have said that they believe this painting to be painted of a younger Leonardo da Vinci. The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC does not attribute this painting to be of Leonardo Da Vinci in his younger days.

I think this painting is less likely to be of Leonardo than the painting by Visconti. It was painted in 1520, and Leonardo passed away in 1519; there is no way he sat for this painting.

If Leonardo did have red hair, then there is no way this can be correct, as this man had dark hair. In his later years, we know he let his hair grow out, and most paintings seem to show him as entirely white.

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Anita Louise Hummel

Hi, I am Anita Louise Hummel. I am an artist and a blogger. I paint mainly oil paints. I love to paint women, animals (mainly dogs and cats), and abstracts. I use a lot of gold and silver leaf in my paintings. I also love to blog about anything to do with art, business, Procreate, and all the wonderful artists that inspire me.

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Is There Any Painting Of The Young Leonardo da Vinci?