Dear little chap

Finding himself in Madrid, Dalrymple ambles into the Prado, which is for him the most beautiful of the great art galleries. He comes across a painting by Bronzino, and observes that the productions of this portraitist of the Florentine élite are marked by

clear-sighted ruthlessness. They are slightly chilling.

Don Garzia de’ Medici, son of Cosimo I de’ Medici, is represented as holding in his right hand an orange flower, symbol of innocence. But no one would take him for an innocent.

Quite the contrary, one would take him for an incipient psychopath, the kind of person who later in his career would gladly have had those around him poisoned in order to secure his power, he being only the third son of his father. The infant, chubby from rich food, is dressed in a red silk tunic laced liberally with gold, of an adult style different only in size from an adult’s, and stares out defiantly, unblinkingly and already with no illusions about the world, upon the onlooker. His expression is nasty; it is that of an infant both petulant and calculating.

The picture

lacks tenderness of any kind. It is a portrait of a young Machiavellian who expects as his due, but also has to scheme, to get his way.

Dalrymple has seen many children aged three with the malign and calculating expression of Don Garzia de’ Medici.

I worked for years in a prison and used to see the prisoners’ infants coming to visit their father in the company of their mothers, and I saw on their faces the already-hardened look of Don Garzia. I have little doubt that a psychopathic environment brings forth psychopaths.

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