This is a marble bas-relief made between 1470 and 1480 by the Italian artist Andrea di Francesco di Cione, better known as Il Verrocchio.
This portrait represents the Roman general Scipio and must be understood in the historical and intellectual context of the Renaissance to which the set of the work of Verrocchio, which is both pictorial with works such as The Baptism of Christ and sculptural with creations as famous as his David or the representation of the Doubt of Saint Thomas.
The Renaissance was a time in which the current of humanist thought sought moral and political references in the men of the past. And one of those ancient heroes they truly loved was Publius Cornelius Scipio, called the African (235 – 183 BC).
A character who was not only praised for his military victories against the Carthaginians, but also for example as a knight, a man of war and letters at the same time. Something that is not only manifested in reliefs like this, but can also be read in the work of one of the greatest representatives of Renaissance poetry: the poet Petrarch who also dedicated verses to him to Scipio.
But this veneration of historical figures was completed with the cycle of the so-called"Facing Captains". In other words, if Scipio was named, it was necessary to mention Anibal, his Carthaginian enemy who would come to represent the opposite. And another similar case would be the Greek Alexander the Great and the Persian Darius. Well, Verrochio dedicated several portraits to these four characters in different materials. He made them in marble like this one that is kept in theLouvre Museum in Paris, but he also made them in terracotta or bronze, and even his engravings and drawings are kept.
And not only that, but also his apprentices in the workshop made them, and among them the most famous disciple, Leonardo da Vinci, of whom a warrior's head is preserved, possibly Hannibal, at the British Museum in London.
In short, that Verrocchio's Scipio shows all the great virtues that were wanted at the time for rulers. That is to say, we see a beautiful character, in a thoughtful pose, but who at the same time is battle-hardened and for that reason bears all the attributes of a good warrior.