An Extravagant New Tribute to the Rise of Portraiture 600 Years Ago

The artist takes 21st century technology and culture to a 15th century aesthetic

Tagliavini is attracted to the time of Filippo Lippi, famously said by Robert Browning to “paint the soul.” Christian Tagliavini
Christian Tagliavini
Christian Tagliavini
Christian Tagliavini

The Renaissance began in Italy more than six centuries ago, and it remains a point of national pride, says the Swiss-Italian photographer Christian Tagliavini, who grew up in Parma. His new series “1406” (for the birth year of the painter Filippo Lippi) draws equally on that “incredible period,” as he calls it, and today’s technology. Tagliavini began each artwork, which might take months to complete, using design software to create a unique costume evoking the 15th century. He constructed parts of some elements, such as the striking headgear in La Moglie dell’Orefice (The Wife of the Goldsmith), with a 3-D printer. And the models? He scouted them on Facebook and Instagram. “I can’t have someone who looks too modern,” he says. “I try to find faces from the past.” The result is an uncanny homage to the old masters with a 21st-century twist.

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This article is a selection from the December issue of Smithsonian magazine