Old Love


I’m in love. With a Renaissance man. Literally.

Ever since I first laid eyes on Botticelli’s Young Man in the National Gallery in London, I have been done for. I had to give my first ever public presentation on Renaissance portraits as an art history undergraduate, a frightening prospect! Choosing the Botticelli and a slightly earlier female portrait by Baldovinetti for comparison was easy; speaking in a gallery was not. Needless to say I spent weeks staring at the two paintings but it was the Botticelli portrait that held me captive and has ever since. Two-dimensional he may be but to me he is more alive than any of the other fine portraits on display in the National Gallery.

The sitter has always been a bit of a mystery – not helped by the “Young Man” title – and there have even been suggestions that it may be Sandro himself due to the fact that his face seems slightly lopsided as if looking in a mirror. That has always been of the painting’s strengths to me, it makes the person more real, a little bit flawed, but ultimately more alive. I have always thought that his was a modern face, longish hair and a slightly arrogant expression of disdain and coolness around the mouth. He wouldn’t have seemed out of place in 20th century London if he had suddenly stepped out of his frame into the modern world. What kind of person had he been in his time? What did he do? How old did he get to be? I often ask myself those questions but sadly never get an answer.

Every time I go into the National Gallery I make a beeline for my young man to say hello and make sure that he is still there and as beautiful as ever. No matter how chaotic the world seems at times, it can’t be all bad if there are works of art that can move and inspire people like the Botticelli has done for me over the years. I love museums and galleries, they are peaceful places to me and no matter how stressed I feel, they always calm me down. My young man and I have been through much together over the last 21 years since I first met him and he will always have a special place in my heart.

I am beyond thrilled that akg-images now has the opportunity to distribute the amazing images that make up the world-class collection of the National Gallery of which the Botticelli portrait is only one! I have selected only a handful of stunning paintings to give you an idea – I hope you agree that this is a great collection.