Palma il Vecchio, Self-Portrait

Artist | Palma il Vecchio (ca. 1479/80–1528)  
Title | Self-Portrait  
Date | ca. 1510  
Medium | Black chalk, heightened with white on blue paper, laid down  
Dimensions | 257 x 184 mm  
Institution | National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh  
Credit line | Keith Andrews Bequest 1991  
Theme | The Human Form  
Museum number | D 5296 

Palma il Vecchio (1479/80–1528), born Jacopo Palma and also called Jacopo Negretti, had considerable success with depictions of sacre conversazioni. He passed down his painting talents to his family, including his son Jacopo Negretti, or Palma il Giovane (1548/50–1628). Born in Serinalta, near Bergamo, Italy, Palma il Vecchio permanently moved to Venice no later than 1510. Possibly not long after his arrival, he executed this drawing. Like many artists from Venice, Palma exploits the inherently blue paper to explore the fall of light and shade on the figure’s face. As a result, little attention is paid to the garments. Although an inscription on the verso of the sheet states that the head study was drawn in preparation for a painting, the drawing is more likely a self-portrait of the artist due to the sharp twist of his neck, the informal pose, and the direct gaze of the figure typical of ritratti di spalla, portraits of figures looking over their shoulder.