Raphael And The Beautiful Banker

The Story of the Bindo Altoviti Portrait
Brown, David Alan
Van Nimmen, Jane
Date published: 
March 2005

Five centuries ago a stunningly beautiful young man, heir to a banking fortune, sat for a portrait by Raphael. In the artist’s dynamic conception, Bindo Altoviti turns as if to speak to his Florentine bride, Fiammetta. Ardently admired over the years, as it is today, Raphael’s portrait was also coolly received by more than one influential critic who cast a shadow on its reputation. This gloriously illustrated book tells the story of the portrait’s creation and of its unexpected trajectory through history.

Focusing on viewers’ responses to Bindo Altoviti, the book describes the transformation of the picture from a family treasure into a supposed self-portrait of the artist; its public display in Munich, where it was first celebrated, then dismissed by sceptics claiming that it was neither of nor by Raphael; and its acquisition by canny English dealers who lured the panel out of Nazi Germany. Purchased as a Raphael by American collector Samuel H. Kress, the painting was donated in 1943 to the newly opened National Gallery of Art, where Bindo’s image has beguiled visitors ever since.

David Alan Brown is curator of Italian paintings at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Jane Van Nimmen is an independent scholar living in Vienna.