Paulus Jovius (Paolo Giovio) published amongst others a collection of biographies of famous people, Elogia vivorum bellica virtute illustrium (1551). By 1521 he had a substantial collection of portraits of famous people in a museum he had built on his estate. Several engravings were copied from paintings for his Elogia by the Swiss engraver, Tobias Stimmer. A portrait of Columbus was not included in the first edition. Nevertheless, the second edition published by Petrus Perna in Basel in 1557 contained a Stimmer engraving of the Admiral.
The painting (or a copy of the original) does not match the written descriptions of Columbus. It shows an older man with gray hair, a round face, downcast brown eyes, a protruding lower lip, and a dimple in his chin-a feature never discussed in any account of Columbus's appearance. He wears ecclesiastical dress, which for many confirmed that this portrait must be the true likeness of Columbus painted from life. Most likely, some unknown artist hired by Jovius produced a likeness out of sheer imagination for the collection.
The Jovian portrait, later owned by a descendant of Jovius, Count Alessandro Orchi, is famous because so many copies were made from the original. Stimmer's "somewhat rude woodcut" used in the Jovius biography shows a man with an arched right brow with a long, aquiline nose, but still possessing a dimple in the chin [right].
It was the custom of the day to make copies of famous works of art. Several painters were sent to make copies for various collections. Among them Cristofano dell'Altissimo, who made copies for the gallery of Duke Cosimo of Tuscany. In 1556 Altissimo wrote in a letter about sending two boxes of portraits back to the Duke with one containing a likeness of the Admiral. Today the portrait hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
Excerpt from Paul Martin Lester, Looks Are Deceiving: the Portraits of Christopher Columbus, Originally published in Visual Anthropology, Vol. 5, pp. 211-227 C1993 Harwood Academic Publishers GmbH; click here for the WWW-version.