Friday, July 13, 2018

What did Columbus Look Like?

Contrary to what some people may think, the picture above is not of Christopher Columbus. In fact, there are no known authentic portraits of Columbus. The famous painting here is from Sebastiano del Piombo in 1515 titled "Portrait of a Man." Columbus did not look like that. 

Here is what Columbus looked like:

"The Admiral was a well-built man of more than average stature," in other words, he was tall; "the face long, the cheeks somewhat high, his body neither fat nor lean. He had an aquiline nose and light-colored eyes; his complexion too was light and tending to bright red. In youth his hair was blonde, but when he reached the age of thirty, it all turned white."
"The Life of the Admiral Christopher Columbus by his son Ferdinand" translated by Benjamin Keen, Chapter 3, page 9.

I don't know where people get the idea Columbus' hair was red!? Maybe from the picture above!?

The movie "1492 The Conquest of Paradise" got most of Columbus' look right; except that his hair was already white at the time of the discovery. 

Though a fictional portrait, Dióscoro Puebla (and other painters) got Columbus' description better.


1 comment:

  1. I have heard several historians claim that Columbus had red hair, but I have no idea where they get it. Bartolome de las Casas maybe? I thought it was Washington Irving's biography, but I checked it and he didn't write red, but merely "light" hair.

    I'm rather partial to the portrait of Columbus that hangs in the Naval Museum in Madrid: Not from life, but based on his description.

    Are you aware of this portrait?: I have only found one source for it, that website, and I don't know where Peter van der Krogt got his information. Still, it is an interesting possibility.

    It is my opinion if you seek the face of the Admiral, you can see a reflection of it in his 13th (I think) great-grandson Cristóbal Colón y de la Cerda:,_14th_Duke_of_Veragua#/media/File:Duque_de_Veragua,_de_Nuevo_Mundo.jpg