Leonardo's Self Portrait - Portrait of a Man in Red Chalk

This self portrait was painted in 1512 using red chalk, when Leonardo da Vinci was 50 and living in France. The original painting measures 33.3 x 21.3 cm (13 1/8 x 8 3/8 in). It is now held in the magnificent collection of the Biblioteca Reale, Turin.

Leonardo da Vinci's thinking about the power of the artist can also furnish the clue to the famous enigmatic self-portrait in red chalk. It has often been remarked that on it the master looks older than his age - he can have been only about sixty when he made this drawing - and in consequence, some critics have doubted whether it is a likeness of himself. Other good reasons apart, however, this portrait perfectly fits the role in which Leonardo had cast himself. A venerable old man with a long white beard, the severe eyes shaded under bushy brows, was the traditional type for representing philosophers, prophets and also God. Nobody would suggest seriously, of course, that Leonardo has drawn himself consciously in the semblance of the Almighty, but we must remember his claim that the painter contends with nature and that painting is related to God. This imposing sage who seems to have come from some other world has something of the indefinable mien of a magus, of a one who through discovering the laws of the universe knows how to manipulate them.

Although many notable artists following Leonardo, including Rembrandt, Claude Monet, and Vincent van Gogh produced numbers of self-portraits, this Portrait of a Man in Red Chalk is the only self-portrait that Leonardo da Vinci left behind.