Néstor Ponce de León

The Columbus Gallery
The 'Discoverer of the New World' as represented in Portraits, Monuments, Statues, Medals and Paintings
Historical Description.

New York: N. Ponce de Leon, 1893.

Table of contents

[page 4]


I consider as belonging to the first group, that is to say to the pictures or engravings, the originals of which were, perhaps, taken from life at different periods of the Admiral' s career, the following, namely :
  1. The original of the engraving published in the illustrated edition of the works of Paulus Jovius. This was taken from a picture in the Jovian Gallery, which was there before 1546. A copy of the same picture made before the year 1568, is in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. There are many pretended originals of this Jovian picture:
    1. The portrait at Coma, known as the de Orchi.
    2. The picture at the National Library, Madrid, known as the Yañez portrait.
    3. The Cogoletto portrait.
    4. The Cuccaro portrait, from which was taken the Cancellieri medallion.
  2. The original of the engraving published by Capriolo.
  3. The picture attributed to Antonio del Rincon.
  4. The Juan de la Cosa portrait.
  5. The Lotto portrait.
  6. The miniature in the Cluny Museum at Paris, from which, perhaps, the portrait by Sir Anthony More was taken.
And all the pictures taken withh more or leas fidelity from the above mentioned. I will now proceed to describe them.


Paulus Jovius, or Paolo Giovio, Archbishop of Nocera, was torn in 1483, and died in 1552.
Jovius published in 1592, at Florence, a hook called Elogia Virorum Bellicâ Virtute Illustrium, in which is found a eulogy of Columbus. This [page 5] edition, notwithstanding the authoritative opinion of Harrisse, had no engravings. There is another edition of 1551, which I have not succeeded in finding, but Winsor says (II. 72,) that it bas no engravings, and that it gives an account of Columbus on p. 171; but the third edition of the said book, published at Basle in 1575, was full of engravings. Among them is the one whichI1 copy. In the third edition the wood engravings were by Tobias Stimmer, a native of Schaffhausen, and the same portrait is found in it.
In order to show the paramount importance of this portrait it will be necessary to enter into same details regarding the illustrious collector of the gallery.
Jovius was born at Como, Lombardy, on April 19th, 1483, and died at Florence, on December llth, 1552. He studied at the great University of Pavia, from which he graduated as a physician, with the highest honors. Having much love for geographical and historical studies and also for natural history, he abandoned medicine and applied himself to literature. He was a man without conscience or principles, mendacious, a flatterer, calumniator and intriguer, but of brilliant talents, extensive knowledge, untiring activity, and of great artistic taste. Thanks to these high qualifications, he soon won eminence at the Pontifical Court and attained the position of Archbishop of Nocera. His works became famous in his time, but as his venal pen never hesitated in writing in favor of the highest bidder, he is at present absolutely discredited as a historian.
Jovius amassed an immense fortune; and his knowledge, his artistic tastes and his venality, placed him in close personal relations with the foremost representative men of his time. Eight enormous volumes have been published eontaining a portion of his correspondence with a very large number of persons distinguished in arms, sciences, literature and arts, among whom were Emperor Charles V., King Henry II., Popes Clement VII., Julius II., Leo X., and Paul III., the Constable de Montmorenci, the Duke of Alba, and Cardinals Farnesi and Guise.
He wrote a large number of volumes on many subjects, and in his famous villa on the share of the Lake of Como, he colleeted a splendid library, a beantiful cabinet of antiquities, and finally a superb gallery of portraits of famous men. These have won for him an immortality which he did not deserve, on account of his vices and immorality.
On the same spot where the villa of Pliny the Younger once stood near Lake Como, Jovius built his house, a part of which yet remains. He formed his large collection of portraits of famous persons at an immense expense. Those of all his contemporaries were taken from life by the most distinguished [page 6] artists; and his collection acquired such great importance and favor that so noble a genius as Julius Romanus bequeathed to it, in 1547, a superb collection of portraits, the work of Raphael, for he believed "he could not find a better place for them." Many artists sent their works there because they considered it an honor to be represented in that famous gallery. About the year 1550 the Duke of Tuscany sent Christopher dall' Altissimo and other painters there, to take copies of them for the Florence Gallery; and we know that before 1568 two hundred and eighty of these curies were hanging there, because Vasari mentions them on that date, and among those portraits he includes that of Columbus under No. 6 of the series of "Heroes." This portrait is yet hanging in the Gallery and is numbered 397. In the Vasari Catalogue it is properly placed between Vespucci and Magellan.
The correspondence of Jovius gives the fullest evidence of his strenuous efforts and great expenditures to obtain trustworthy portraits of the persons he wanted to place in his gallery. He was a fanatical and enthusiastic believer in Columbus, to whom he wanted to erect a magnificent statue. It is not credible that he would be satisfied with an imaginary copy of the features of his great fellow-citizen, nor is it likely that he should have ordered a portrait of the Admiral from life, as he was only twenty-three years old at the time of the death of Columbus. Therefore we are bound to believe that he did not hesitate to acquire, at any price, some trustworthy portrait of the Admiral taken from life, either by some Spanish painter or by one of the many Italian artists who ware then traveling through Spain.
Years after the death of Jovius a large part of this gallery was distributed among the different branches of his family, and although a graat number of his pictures are yet kept in the same place, unluckily that of Columbus is not among them, and it is not known where it can be found. Some persons pretend that the picture at Madrid, known as the Yañez portrait, is that original; others that it is the De Orchi picture. I will speak hereinafter about these; but I must state thus early that none of them can be either the original of the engraving in the work of Jovius, or in that of Capriolo, nor the original of the famous and well-authenticated copy in the Uffizi Gallery at Florence, which is positively known to have been taken from the Como picture.
lagree with an illustrious Spanish writer, Cayetano Rossell, who says: "In my opinion, it is incontrovertible that Jovius obtained somewhere an authentic portrait of the Discoverer of the New World." This is proven by the copy made for the Uffizi Gallery, by tradition, and by the assertion of the editor of the work of Jovius, who reproduced all the pictures found in the museum of Jovius, and says: "I have at much expense employed an eminent [page 7] artist to engrave Jovian portraits painted trom life." Furthermore, we are led to believe it by the personal importance of Jovius himself.
As Jovius had personal relations with the Emperor Charles V. and with many distinguished Spaniards, nothing could be easier than for him to obtain either an original portrait from life or a copy of the same, by an artist at the court of Spain, perhaps by Antonio del Rincon, who undoubtedly knew Columbus personally, as he died in 1500, and whe during the last years of his life was always at court, having been appointed royal painter by the Catholic kings many years before.
The importance of this original picture being thus explained, I will proceed to describe the cut taken from it, which is the first portrait of Columbus ever published.
The engraving is on wood and somewhat rough, but full of vigor and life, as is almost every one in the book. It is a copy taken trom the edition of the Elogia of 1575, which I owe to the kindness ofthe well-known Americanist, ex-Chief Justice Charles P. Daly. It represents Columbus at over fifty years of age, with abundant and curly hair, without beard or mustache. It is a half-length, showing the hands. The dress looks, at first sight, like that of a monk, but I believe, with Messrs. Carderera and Rios, that it is simply the old Spanish tabard, a kind of cloak worn in Spain in the most ancient times, and still in use by the sailors of the Bay of Biscay. (See frontispiece.)

This engraving, with same more or less slight changes, has been reproduced in a great number of books. I also give another cut of it, slightly different in treatment, because the features are clearer and more expressive than in the first. (Cut No. 2.)



The most important copy of the Jovian portrait is undoubtedly that in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence. It has been there, as I stated above, prior to the year 1568, and was probably painted by l' Altissimo. But whoever the painter be [page 8] who executed this copy he was not a faithful copyist. He deliberately tried to soften the harsh features of the weather-beaten mariner, and made the expression milder, representing the face as fuller and the lineaments less prominent, but in so doing he took away the energy and vigor, and the expression of decision which is so remarkable in Jovius' book. The painter who made the Jefferson copy tried to soften it still more, and his picture has no expression at all.
Cut No. 3 is a copy of the portrait in the Uffizi Gallery. It was certainly there before 1567, and probably since 1552; therefore it is the oldest perfectly-authenticated picture of Columbus.
Many copies in oil have been taken from this one. Among them that owned by Jefferson, and now in the Library of the Massachusetts Historical Society, is very well known. It has also been copied by all kinds of processes. I have in my possession over twenty copies of this picture. One is a photograph directly from the one at Florence. All are widely different, and are a good proof of the little reliance to be placed upon copies.
The engraving in the Jovius book and the Florence portrait may be considered as the originals of about all the pictures of any importance. Artists have introduced sundry variations in them; some deliberately, to make people believe they were originals or copies from unknown originals, some from a want of skill, but in the greater part of them it is easy to detect that they all represent one single type—that of Jovius.

[page 9]


This picture is of the highest importance, and deserves, therefore, to be carefully considered.
In the year 1763, the Spanish Government bought trom Mr. Yañez, a resident of Granada, a set of four beautiful though somewhat dilapidated portraits, representing Columbus, Cortés, Quevedo and Lope de Vega. Judging from appearances all were painted by the same hand,; and those of Cortés Quevedo and Lope are excellent likenesses. This precludes all idea that the Columbus portrait could have been taken trom life, as Cortés was almost a boy when Columbus died, and Quevedo and Lope were born almost half a century after his death.
This portrait remained tor long years in a corner of the Royal (now National) Library, and until the time of Navarrete, about the beginning of this century, nobody paid any attention to it; but Navarrete, after a careful examination, attached great importance to this picture and always showed a great predilection for it.
Carderera says: "The picture is two feet high, painted on a poplar-wood board (chopo), a wood which was never used by the Spanish artists of that time, though it was much employed by the Italians. It is the same size as the Jovian picture, and has the same epigraph ; the painter, besides, was a mannerist and wielded a weak brush. The fur robe, close-fitting and crossed in the front, differs widely from that in all known pictures; but a scrupulous examination has convinced me that it is recent, and the work of a modern restorer. It looks like an alteration made a few years ago by in expert hands."



In Cut No. 4 I present this picture as it appeared before 1877. I will only [page 10] add that Carderera considers it an old copy of the Jovian picture, and as the oldest portrait of Columbus existing in Spain. He believes it was painted in Italy in the sixteenth century by some artist of the Florentine school.
On petition of Mr. Carderera and other artists, who made an interesting report about this picture, it was decided to try to discover if, under the clumsy brush marks of the modern restorer, the original lines could be found; and never was an operation of this kind performed with greater success. [page 11] Following the instructions of Carderera, and under the direction of the distinguished Librarian of the National Library, the able artist, Mr. Salvador Martinez Cubells, undertook this delicate task. The first order received by him was simply "to make an examination, and if from it it was found with certainty that the original had received arbitrary touches of the brush defacing it, to re-establish, as far as possible, all that had disappeared in the drawing and in the coloring." Mr. Cubells began at the top of the picture, and saw immediate1y that the legend had been changed, and that where he found "CRISTOF COLUMBUS, NORI (sic) ORBIS INVENTOR," the old epigraph read, "COLUMBUS LYGUR. NOVI ORBIS REPTOR." In view of this, he continued cleaning off all the traces of the restoration, and under the old picture he found a new one full of life and vigor, which has all the characteristics of Columbus and bears an extraordinary resemblance to the Jovian type. This was beautifully engraved by José Maria Galvan, and from that engraving is taken the cut which I reproduce. (Cut No. 5.)
The picture had been examined, after its resuscitation, by a great number of artists and experts, who are all of opinion that it does not belong to the Spanish School, as the style and the coloring are that of the Florentine-that of the Altissimo; that it may have been painted by some one of the disciples of the Bronzino; and that there is no doubt that it was painted in Italy in the sixteenth century.
Mr. Rosell adds: "It is useless to state more reasons in favor of the authenticity of this portrait, which, after having been cleaned, gives evidence thai it is one of the oldest known, and which by its material, form, features, dress and other conditions, offers greater proof of genuineness than any other of those found in our private galleries."
A comparison of the picture in its first and second states will show at a glance the wide difference between them and the clumsiness of the dauber who pretended to restore it.
Mr. Rios claims that this is the original Jovius picture, but I do not consider his reasons of sufficient weight to disprove the fact that the four pictures purchased together appear to be from the same hand, which shows that they could not have been painted prior to the last years of the sixteenth century.
In this picture the hair is shorter than in the portrait at Florence and in the Capriolo cut, but is similar to the cut in Jovius' book.
It is a curious fact that not a portrait of Columbus is found in any of the catalogues of the collections of the Kings of Spain, from Philip II. to Philip V.
This Yañez portrait, as it now stands, is perhaps the only one in which are [page 12] presented complete all the characteristics of Columbus, as described by those who knew him personally. It is to be regretted that it was not painted by a first-rate artist, and that it is not possible to obtain its full history before it was bought tor the Royal Library.
General Fairchild presented a copy of this portrait to the Historical Society of Wisconsin, a few years ago.
Cogoletto is a small village fifteen miles trom Genoa, which claims to be [page 13] the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. A tablet bas been placed in an old house in one of the principal streets in commemoration of this dubious fact. Nevertheless, the very room and the corner in which the Discoverer was born are shown to all visitors who are willing to spend a small sum for the privilege of admission. In this house there is also a small portrait of [page 14] Columbus which is asserted to be of great antiquity, but evidently it is only a copy from the Jovius.
But there is another picture in the Council Hall of the village which is really deeply interesting. Its antiquity has been almost proven by Isnardi in his work, Sulle Patria de Colombo, who says that its history can be traced for over three hundred years; and some have gone so far as to pretend that it is the original and now lost portrait of the Jovian Gallery. A single glance at it will show its strlking likeness to the Altissimo, to the de Orchi and the Yañez portraits, and to all those emanating from the Jovian type. (See Cut No. 6.) It even has the same inscription, thus showing their common origin. The picture is in bad condition, and does not appear to be the work of a master-hand.



There is a picture at Cuccaro, in the house of Fidele Guglielmo Colombo, which bas been preserved for long years by the branch of the Colombo family residing in this place. Cuccaro also claims to be the birthplace of Columbus, and the family asserts in addition that this is the original Jovius portrait, but according to experts it is only a poor copy of it. Napione accepted this picture as genuine; Cancellieri was of the same opinion, and copied and engraved it in his work,
Feuillet de Couches says that there is another portrait in the Castle of Cuccaro, and that this is only a copy of the Florence portrait.
Another picture which, not only on account of its intrinsic artistic merit, but also because the owner pretends that it is the original Jovian portrait, is deserving of an extended notice; I refer to the one belonging to Count de Orchi, which is shown in Cut No. 7.
A slight examination will show that this picture and the one in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence have undoubtedly a common origin. The following data about the history of this picture I owe to my distinguished friend and relative, Mr. José S. Jorrin, of Havana, who has written many able essays on Columbus, but, unfortunately for Cuban literature, has not yet published his very complete life of the great Admiral, to which he has devoted many years of his useful life.
Mr. Jorrin, in one of his trips to Italy, became acquainted with Count Giovanni Giovio, the only member of the family of the famous Bishop of Nocera who bears that historical name, and from a long correspondence which was carried on between them, from March 7th, 1879, to April 6th, 1880, he obtained the following facts :
"Many of the pictures of the said Jovian Museum remain yet at Como, in the old home of the founder, which is still called Ædes Jovis.
[page 15] "The collection was divided, a long time ago, between the two branches of the family which were the principal heirs, one taking the pictures of men illustrious in arms, the other that of men illustrious in letters.
"The first branch is represented at present by the Marquis Giorgio Raimondi, the noble family de Orchi and Mr. Vietro Novelli; the second by Count Francisco and three nieces.
"The family de Orchi sold to Prince Jérome Napoleon the portrait of Cosmo di Medici, painted by Bronzino, and it is the present owner of that of Columbus. On the upper part there is an inscription in two lines, 'COLUMBUS LYGUR., NOV. ORB IS REPTOR,' but its bad condition prevented a photograph being taken from it; therefore Count Giovanni Giovio requested the Milanese artist, Nessi, to make a very faithful and exact reproduction of it in crayon one-half the actual size. This drawing was photographed, and Mr. Jorrin obtained some copies of it."
Dr. Alessandro de Orchi is the present owner of this picture, which is not signed. Some attribute it to Bartolomeo Suardi and others to Sebastian del Piombo. If it was painted by Piombo it could not have been taken from life, as this artist was born in 1485, and therefore was only twenty-one years of age at the date of the death of Columbus in 1506, and he never left Italy until 1510.
Bartolomeo Suardi (Il Bramantino) reached the zenith of his fame at the end of the fifteenth century, and died in 1530; but there is no record of his having ever been in Spain, although we have very full accounts of his life.
The picture may be from the brush of one of these painters, or from that of any other distinguished artist, who, perhaps, copied it from an original Spanish painting, but its likeness to the Jovian cut and to the copy in the Uffizi Gallery is very remarkable, and the best judges ascribe it to a master. hand.
The distinguished Americanist, Mr. Clement Markham, considers this picture as the only authentic portrait of Columbus now in existence.

[page 16] I will now proceed to give a cursory description of the most important portraits based on the Jovian type, which are, the Belvedere, the Cancellieri, Crispin de Pas, Borghese, Malpica, Altamira, Villafranca and Talleyrand.
Another well-known copy of the Jovius picture is the Belvedere. It was painted in 1579, by order of Ferdinand I. of Austria, and in 1610 it became the property of his son, Archduke Ferdinand, Count of Tyrol, who placed it in his castte of Ambras, near Innspruck, where it remained up to 1805, when it was taken to Vienna and placed in the Belvedere Gallery, where it can still be seen.
It is a beautiful, small miniature in oil, painted on wood, but the name of the eminent artist is unfortunately unknown. There is an engraving of it in Frankl., Christoforo Colombo, a German poem, published at Stuttgart in [page 17] 1836. My cut No. 8 is taken from a lithograph, for which I am indebted to the kindness of ex-Chief Justice C. P. Daly.
Francesco de Cancellieri published a hook at Rome, in 1809, with two title pages, the second of which reads, Notizie Storiche e Bibliographiche di Christoforo Colombo di Cuccaro nel Monferrato, which is full of curious and interesting references to Columbus, who, as he claims, was born at Cuccaro.
On this title page there is a beautiful copper medallion, which Cancellieri says (p. 180) is taken from an old picture belonging to Fedele Guglielmo Colombo of Cuccaro, and engraved by Giuseppe Colendo (although it is signed Jean Petrini sculpsit), and which he prefers to any other, because "it must be the most faithful and correct likeness, since it bas been for long years in the possession of the relatives of Columbus." The engraving is so small (Cut No. 9) that it is difficult to make much out of it; yet, at first sight, it appears to be a somewhat softened reproduction of the Capriolo engraving. It also looks very much like the one in the National Library and the Yañez portrait.

Carderera valued this little medallion very much on account of its artistic merit, but, as Cancellieri says, it is only a copy from the portrait of Cuccaro, which is taken from the portrait at the Jovian Gallery, and, therefore, bas no claim to originality.
In a work entitled Effigies Regum et Principum quorum Vis ac Potentia in Re Nauticá seu Mariná, præ cæteris Spectabilis est, which was published at Cologne in 1598, is the beautiful portrait of Columbus, reproduced in cut 10, and for which I am indebted to the kindness of Mr. W. C. Curtis.
It is the work of the famous engraver, Crispin de Pas or de Passe. It is undoubtedly taken from Jovius, but is a far more artistic work than the Jovius or the Capriolo, and has greater deviations from the type. The attire is that of a Franciscan monk with the cowl, and a gold chain around the neck, and it holds a sextant in the left hand. The nose bas been greatly changed, being no longer of the aquiline type; the hair is short and curled; but the features generally are those of the Jovius.
[page 18] Carderera strongly criticizes the engraver who so arbitrarily deviated from the well-known type.
The chain is the one given to Columbus by the Cacique Guacanagari in Hispaniola, and to which Bernaldez refers in his history of the Catholic Kings.
In the Borghese Gallery there is a pretended portrait of Columbus, which it is claimed was painted in 1519. This painting is nothing more than a very unfaithful copy of the Jovius, and the date at which it was painted is not certainly known, but it is well-establisbed that it is very old, and though there is no record of the name of the artist, it is undoubtedly the work of a master-hand.
According to Carderera, this is a copy painted by order of Prince Aldobrandini, and was for many years the ornament of his magnificent palace in Rome.
Some critics pretend that this picture is simply a representation of the Saviour which bas been copied for the purpose of passing it off as a portrait of Columbus, yet the reputation of the gallery where it has been for so long does not permit of such a supposition.
In the gallery of the Marquis de Malpica at Madrid, where it was examined by Carderera and Rosell at their leisure, there was many years ago a picture of the Admiral. It has strangely disappeared, and it bas been impossible to discover the slightest trace of its present whereabouts.
Mr. Carderera calls it a somewhat imperfect copy of the one in the Uffizi Gallery, with some minor alterations. It is a canvas two reet in height, presenting only the bust of Columbus, wearing a vest, over which is an [page 19] ample dark green mantle. On the top is the epigraph, "CHRISTOFORUS LIGUR., NOVI ORBIS REPERTOR." Carderera believes the picture to be about three centuries old, and this is also the opinion of Rosell.
The Marquis of Villafranca, in 1601, collected a gallery of portraits of illustrious persons; and from a curious letter quoted by Carderera, I find that his agent in Rome wrote him "that the pictures of the Emperors are all finished, one hundred and fifty-seven in number, and that those of the illustrious men are completed with the exception of fifty, and that there will be in all three hundred and twenty pictures." Carderera says that he believes that all these pictures were copied from those that he had seen in Rome in the Borghese Palace, which were copied from those in the Jovian Museum; therefore, the portrait of Columbus in this gallery was simply a copy of the Jovius.
The picture in the gallery of the Count of Altamira was also a copy from that in the Uffizi Gallery. The collections in the palaces of Altamira and Villafranca have been dispersed, and the present whereabouts of these portraits of Columbus is unknown.
The Duke de Talleyrand, Sagan and Valençay bas Bent to the French Geographical Society at Paris a photographic copy of a pretended picture of Columbus. This picture belonged to the gallery of the famous diplomatist, Prince C. M. Talleyrand, and is now at the Chateau de Valençay, Département de L'Indre, France. The painting is very old and bears the following inscription :
and the name of Sebastian del Piombo without any date. I have already given a notice of Piombo in the description of the de Orchi portrait.
Count Louis de Turenne, in a report to the French Academy, mentions that the picture is not only that of Columbus, painted by Sebastian del Piombo, but also that it is taken from life. Following the example of Roselly des Lorgues, he does not take the trouble of explaining from whence he derived his information.
I have not seen any engraving of it, but, from the descriptions which I have read, I suppose this portrait is only an old copy of the Altissimo, with some slight alterations. Continue