Hidden treasures

The self-portrait disguised in Caravaggio’s Bacchus in Florence

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Bacco-Caravaggio

The self-portrait disguised in Caravaggio’s Bacchus in Florence

Many of you will know Caravaggio’s 'Bacchus', the wonderful painting depicting the God of wine and tipsiness, made between 1596 and 1957 and currently housed in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Well, it seems that this art work conceals a secret: inside the canvas, a self-portrait of the author is apparently disguised. Probably Caravaggio considered the painting so important as to feel the need to embed in it an image of himself...

But first things first. The painting, commissioned by cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte as a gift for Ferdinando I de 'Medici, was initially intended for the Villa d'Artimino and was later placed in the grand-ducal collections of the Uffizi. Subsequently it was abandoned and left forgotten in the warehouses of Via Lambertesca where, in 1913, the historian Matteo Marangoni unearthed it. And it was he, who during a restoration of the painting, noticed the image of a small head reflected on the wine jug: the face and the somatic features, very similar to those of Caravaggio, led the scholar to affirm that it was in reality a self-portrait, as confirmed by a group of experts who have recently investigated the case.

To the naked eye, the painting does not actually reveal much: looking carefully at the jug of the wine, located at the bottom left of the painting, you can only see a small shape with unclear outlines. But thanks to the use of modern and sophisticated techniques of radiodiagnostic investigation, the image has been made much sharper but above all much more detailed.

The merit goes to restorer Roberta Lapucci who, during a careful study, using multispectral reflectography, was able to clearly identify a male person with a straight bust and stretched arm. But that’s not all: next to it is a small stand, an inconspicuous but important detail that has confirmed the conjecture: this is a self-portrait of Caravaggio at work with a brush in his hand, made at the age of twenty-five.

Interesting, don’t you think? Florence is not just the 'Cradle of the Renaissance', it is also a city that enshrines many secrets, anecdotes and century-long traditions. If you want to discover them, we suggest you take part in our 'Private tour among the mysteries of Florence': our local expert guides will accompany you to discover the best-kept secrets concealed in the iconic places of the city.

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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