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In the scene where Clemenza and Tessio ask to split off from the Corleones and form their own family, whose portrait can be seen hanging on the wall behind Vito?

Screenshot from the scene.

And why did the director choose the portrait of this man?

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@close-voters "And why did the director choose the portrait of this man?" - Sorry, but that (which has been part of the question ever since) already elevates it far beyond trivia. Close vote revoked! –  Napoleon Wilson Aug 7 at 3:34
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Maybe it's Lord Byron ? There are his portraits: here, here, and here. And here Michael Corleone is represented as example of the Byronic Hero. –  Vadim Karimov Aug 7 at 4:17
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Since guessing is allowed (@Byron), I'm going to say Copernicus, who developed his most controversial astronomic hypothesis, while diverting from his studying medicine in Italy. His ideas changed the way we think of the heavens. I believe it is meant to show Vito Corleone as smarter than average, but willing to keep counsel to himself. Copernicus did not publish his theory until over 10 years later, and then to only close friends. Corleone - smart man - limited friendship. –  wbogacz Aug 7 at 16:23
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If we're in guess mode, this could also be a depiction of Hamlet; in fact, it's very similar to this portrait of an actor as Hamlet. And many similarities could be drawn between Hamlet and Michael. –  Walt Aug 8 at 13:03

1 Answer 1

Although, it is highly unclear who's portrait it is, it resembles to one of Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn's (a Dutch painter and etcher from the 17th century) self portraits. It can also be a rework by someone based on Rembrandt's portraits, but that is unclear as well. By the image it looks like it "could" be a self portrait of Rembrandt as he perceived himself as a young boy, or by someone (unknown) who perceived this as Rembrandt's younger self based on his self portraits.

Although since it's also unclear why the director might have chosen this painting but one of the reason would be to represent a royal (although evil) presence of the Corleones, an influential presence in the Golden Age of Mafia establishments. The fictitious Corleone Family is also based on a real life Borgia Family who were primarily involved in politics and prominent during the Renaissance in Italy. Since, Italian Renaissance art and Dutch Golden Age art have conquered their prime positions in the art history books the representation of a Dutch Art piece (possibly mere fake or just a re-production) by a Great Dutch painter connects it to that era which influenced or inspired Mario Puzo while writing of the fiction. Although, this is just my perception, but a rather possible one.

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