In today's culture of narcissism and celebrity it's an assumed expectation that faces can be put to names. Even in 16th Century Europe, the large majority of notable persons had a likeness made of themselves and displayed for posterity – save for architects, it seems. Take, for instance, Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) – the Renaissance style-setter and author of the groundbreaking treatise The Four Books on Architecture, the seminal text of which inspired the likes of Thomas Jefferson. If challenged, could you easily put a face to Palladio's name? There is no accurate, agreed-upon "official" portrait of the architect – until now, that is.
With little or no empirical evidence that Palladio was particularly averse to sitting for a portrait, the lack of any unequivocal depiction of the man has stumped scholars for centuries. A "fake" etching was made in Britain in the 18th Century, while an Italian version was touted as the homegrown original. According to Fabrizio Magani, an official of the Chief Culture Ministry in Vicenza, "there were two worlds, one British, one Italian, and each had its own face of Palladio."
As reported by The New York Times, a team of Italian architects, art historians and police officers may have finally put the debate to bed. Following a two-year study "that resulted in the diagnostic and forensic examination of a dozen portraits thought to depict Palladio, the team got two positive hits." One portrait is owned privately and kept in Moscow, Russia, while the other—also privately owned—was "bought at an antiques shop in New Jersey." The forensic techniques deployed were used to compare facial features in order determine whether or not the portraits "depicted the same person." They also used age-progression techniques typically used to identify fugitives from the law to see whether the British portrait of the young Palladio would look plausible when the subject was aged."
You can read the full story, here.
News via The New York Times.