Ottavio Leoni (1578-1630) was the son of Ludovico Leoni (1542-1612), a maker of medals who was particularly admired for his life-like wax-relief portraits. The young Ottavio followed his father in specialising in portraits, starting as a miniaturist and becoming especially renowned as a draughtsman working principally in coloured chalk. He was praised in his youth by Federico Zuccaro, whose own chalk portraits influenced Leoni. In the last two decades of his life Leoni experimented with ways of making prints that matched the delicacy and vivacity of his drawings.


Image["Object Number P.7913-R"]

Engraving, c.1621

On Leoni's shoulder, partly hidden by a fold, is the cross of a Knight (Cavaliere) of the Cross of Christ, the order granted by Gregory XV in recompense for the portrait that Leoni painted after Gregory's election as pope on 9 February 1621 (Leoni drew his portrait the following day).

This print evidently dates from the same time as the early print as Baglione. The engraving style relates to the 1621 portrait of Cavaliere d'Arpino. The twisted pose is unusual for Leoni, whose portraits rarely come this close to implied movement: compare the more formal 1625 self-portrait. The pose recurs in an undated drawing (Biblioteca Marucelliana, Florence); a slightly different pose and details are found in another drawing (Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento).

Given by John Charrington 1933


Cavaliere Ottavio Leoni of Rome,

Image["Object Number P.7916-R"]

Engraving, 1625

As in the earlier self-portrait, Leoni wears the cross of a Knight (Cavaliere) of the Cross of Christ. The related drawing in the Biblioteca Marucelliana is a variant of two other drawings, both dated May 1624 and with sequential numbers in Leoni's numbering system (British Museum, London, and Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe). Leoni's hair and the fullness of his face are changed in the engraving, perhaps representing a fresh look at himself in 1625.

There exists an earlier state without the stippled background (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), but it is only in this finished state that it makes its full impact, with the consummate mastery of engraving texture and form that Leoni achieved by 1625.

Given by John Charrington 1933


Four portrait heads

Cosimo Orsini, Camillo Graffico, Sigismund Laire and Ottavio Leoni

Image["Object Number 3.H.6-24"]

Etching, c.1615-18, in Lord Fitzwilliam's album of Leoni's prints.

The profile of Leoni on the right shows him younger than in his later self-portraits.

This plate, and the study of Three portrait heads, are Leoni's only pure etchings. The identities of the faces are those given by Pierre-Jean Mariette (1694-1774), with corrections from an inscription written by a seventeenth-century hand on another impression of this print (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).

The inscription indicates that Orsini was an 'amateur of painting' - perhaps the Roman nobleman Cosimo Orsini (1578-1638) who was distantly related to the Duke of Bracciano.

The Bavarian miniaturist Sigismund Laire (1553-1639) was in Rome by 1575. His work included painting small wax religious figures that were exported in large numbers by Jesuits missionaries.

The engraver Camillo Graffico also appears in the study of Three portrait heads.

Bequeathed by Lord Fitzwilliam 1816


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The Fitzwilliam Museum : Self-portraits

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