The Complex Strategist

In my painting of Niccolò Machiavelli, I was inspired by a terracotta bust that depicted him as a young man. This youthful portrayal was unexpected, as I had always imagined the famous Machiavelli as a fierce older figure. This initial surprise led me to delve deeper into his life and character, uncovering a more nuanced and multifaceted individual than I had previously assumed.

Machiavelli (2017)

oil on canvas
42 x 60 cm

niccoló machiavelli - oil portrait by cornelia es said

Machiavelli was a Florentine diplomat, political theorist, and writer who lived during the Italian Renaissance. His most famous work, „The Prince,“ is a treatise on political strategy and power dynamics, offering rulers advice on how to maintain and expand their influence. While it is true that Machiavelli dedicated „The Prince“ to Lorenzo de‘ Medici, the ruler of Florence, in the hope of securing a position in his government, his work has broader implications that go beyond personal ambitions.

The perception of Machiavelli as a cynical and manipulative figure primarily arises from the pragmatic and, at times, ruthless advice he provided in „The Prince.“ However, it is essential to recognize that he was also the author of other works, such as „Discourses on Livy,“ which presents a more balanced and republican view of politics. These different aspects of his writing reveal the complexity of his character and his deep engagement with the turbulent political landscape of his time.


This portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli aims to capture the enigmatic nature of the man behind the influential works, going beyond the stereotype of a cunning and ruthless strategist. By depicting him as a young man, the painting challenges our preconceived notions and encourages viewers to explore the intricacies of his life and character, ultimately revealing a more nuanced understanding of his contributions to political thought.