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Journal > Volumes > 36 (2005) / 2 (Summer)
Humanistic Self-Representation in Giovan Battista Della Porta’s Della Fisonomia Dell’uomo: Antecedents and Innovation
Katherine MacDonald
University College London

This article examines Giovan Battista Della Porta’s Della Fisonomia Dell’uomo as a public relations exercise, carried out on behalf of the author himself, other intellectuals, and potential noble patrons. Della Porta’s study of human physiognomy includes engravings of famous men and often documents their physical appearances. This article assesses the connections between Della Porta’s treatise and cinquecento biography collections, in particular Paolo Giovio’s Elogia, which Della Porta frequently plagiarizes for descriptions of Italian luminaries. Della Porta’s glorification of famous individuals is in keeping with the nature of early modern scientific culture within the context of late Renaissance court life. By describing his own physical appearance in book 4, chapter 6, “Of the clever man,” Della Porta fashions an image of himself as a courtier and a natural philosopher. This self-portrait is compared to those by fellow physiognomers Girolamo Cardano and Gabriele Syméoni.

Pages: 397 - 414