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Ottavio Leoni (1578-1630)

Ottavio Leoni (1578-1630)

Ottavio LeoniPainter, portrait draughtsman and etcher working in Rome. b. Rome 1578, d. Rome 1630. Drawings in coloured chalks made in numbered series; prints usually engraving, only a few etched, all made 1621-30. He received his earliest tuition from his father, Ludovico Leoni (1542-1612), the painter, engraver, medallist and maker of wax relief portraits,

 In 1603 Ottavio was involved in a libel action brought against Caravaggio (1571-1610) by Giovanni Baglione (c. 1566-1643): in this suit it was alleged that Ottavio had written verses critical of Baglione. In 1604 Ottavio became a member of the Accademia di San Luca and was elected principe in 1614. In 1621 he became a member of the Accademia dei Virtuosi del Pantheon, and in recognition of his 'Portrait of Gregory XV', painted in 1621-3, the Pope created him Cavaliere di Cristo ; in Ottavio's own drawn 'Self-portrait' (1854,0628.85), the Cross of the Order of Knighthood is seen at his shoulder, drawn in red chalk. Although best known as a portrait draughtsman, some paintings by Ottavio survive, From early in his career, drawn rather than painted portraits became Ottavio's speciality. His subjects were mostly the aristocracy of Rome, but they also comprised artists and men of letters as well as ordinary citizens, provide documented evidence of Leoni's development as an artist, from a robust North Italian manner to a softer, more Baroque style.

Ottavio's principal patron for his drawn portraits was Cardinal Scipione Borghese (Robbin, 1996). An album of some 400 that had belonged to the Cardinal was sold in Paris in 1747 at the sale of M. d'Aubigny.

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