Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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In Greek mythology, Narcissus was an outstandingly beautiful young man who fell in love with his own reflection in a woodland pool, eventually pining away with unrequited passion. This tiny picture shows him dressed elegantly and with a wreath of leaves in his hair, gazing into a still basin of water. It is unusual for Narcissus to be shown in contemporary dress – he is more usually depicted as a classical hunter or a beautiful, naked youth.

This painting and another version of it (Uffizi, Florence) were done by an artist close to Boltraffio, one of Leonardo da Vinci’s most talented followers; both pictures recall Boltraffio’s drawings of the profiles of an idealised youth with flowing hair and a wreath. These perhaps hark back to an original by Leonardo, reflecting the poetic culture of the Milanese court during the 1490s.

The National Gallery, London





about 1490-9


Oil on wood


H 23.2 x W 26.4 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Salting Bequest, 1910

Work type



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The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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