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Leonardo da Vinci

New insights into Leonardo's only portrait of a male sitter

The music depicted in Portrait of a Musician, 1485-88, currently on loan to the National Gallery, London, may have been composed by the artist

Luke Syson, the curator of “Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan” (until 5 February 2012), points out that the piece of musical notation held by the sitter is folded, like a letter. It has often been assumed that the portrait of an unknown man—Leonardo’s only male sitter—is a composer, but Syson argues that he is much more likely to be a performer, since he appears to have just received the music. This suggests that he was Atalante Migliorotti, a young Florentine singer and lyre player whom Leonardo knew. Syson further speculates that the music may “have been composed by Leonardo himself”.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Leonardo: settling a musical score?'