Portrait of a Man, Said to be Christopher Columbus (born about 1446, died 1506)

Sebastiano del Piombo (Sebastiano Luciani) Italian

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 625

Whether this portrait actually depicts Christopher Columbus is debatable, but from the time it was first engraved around 1590 it became the authoritative likeness of the explorer who launched the Spanish crown’s violent colonization of the Americas. Columbus’s four voyages between 1492 and 1504 literally began to map a project of extracting human and natural resources that ensured the dominance of Spain and Catholicism on a global scale for over two centuries. The date of 1519 on this badly damaged portrait indicates that, if it represents Columbus, it was painted posthumously. An explanation may come, however, from the visit of Columbus’s son to Rome in 1516–17, where the highly regarded artist Sebastiano del Piombo would have been an appropriate choice to memorialize his father.

Portrait of a Man, Said to be Christopher Columbus (born about 1446, died 1506), Sebastiano del Piombo (Sebastiano Luciani) (Italian, Venice (?) 1485/86–1547 Rome), Oil on canvas

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