No One Knows What Christopher Columbus Looked Like

By Gregory Myers on Tuesday, February 11, 2014
columbus
“Weep for me, whoever has charity, truth and justice! I did not come on this voyage for gain, honor or wealth, that is certain; for then the hope of all such things was dead.” —Christopher Columbus, Letter to the Sovereigns (1503)

In A Nutshell

While there are many different portraits available of Christopher Columbus, all of them are simply the artist’s take on what they thought he looked like. Columbus, as far as history can tell us, never actually sat for a portrait. Some people speculate that one might have been requested by Queen Isabella during his time at her court, but no such portrait was ever found in her collection upon her death.

The Whole Bushel

Columbus is someone most people have some visual image of in their heads and for good reason. There are over 70 portraits of Columbus that have at one point been claimed as authentic by some artist or another. Many different people have tried to capture his likeness, but considering no historical records of any kind show evidence that he sat for a portrait, none are considered legitimate. Some people point out that with his fame, it seems unlikely that it never would have happened, but there are several reasons why Columbus might never have gotten around to it.

For starters, Columbus originally came from Genoa, Italy and the people there were unlikely to bother with that sort of thing at the time. In fact, in Genoa during those days art of that manner was usually used in churches and not really much of anywhere else. Some speculate that Columbus simply never would have thought of it. However, it is also important to note that while Columbus’s discovery was considered extremely important in later years, at the time he was basically a big, fat letdown. He was expected to bring back incredible riches and made many promises, but the royal court never really felt that he accomplished what he set out to do. It could be that he never had a portrait commissioned simply because he fell out of favor.

Now, in the portraits we do have, Columbus is portrayed in just about every manner imaginable. Some portraits have him much thinner or fatter than others; some imagine him with facial hair and all manner of hair colors. His complexion has been shown in many different skin tones as well. In fact, it seems the only thing the portraits seem to truly have in common is that he was a European male of some sort. However, history does have some written accounts that give us a clue as to the true visage of Columbus. One account states that he was light-skinned, but sometimes had a ruddy complexion, had a fairly average build, and somewhat sharp features with slightly high cheekbones. His hair was supposed to be blonde, but at a young age quickly changed entirely to white. Of course, no matter what face you put on him, he still changed the world.

Show Me The Proof

Looks Are Deceiving: The Portraits of Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus and the Bank of Saint George, by Henry Harrisse

  • Lisa 39

    The swirly face thingy was quite disturbing at 4:00 am.

    • lbatfish

      That portrait also makes it easier to understand why Queen Isabella wanted him gone from Spain, even if it cost her three ships to do it.

      • Lisa 39

        Smart woman, haha, now that’s s face for radio!

      • TheMadHatter

        “I’m back, and I found another continent!”
        “You have got to be kidding me!”

    • Jesussaves

      That’s funny!

      • Lisa 39

        Thank you! It’s still kind of disturbing 6 hours later lol

    • TheStupidityofLiberals

      You know what else is disturbing? The fact that the American people elected a Muslim sympathizing socialist to office 2 terms in a row. That my friend, is truly disturbing.

      • Spartacross

        Relax. Elections only mater in Democracies. When every electable candidate works for the same International Banking interests, elections are only for show.

        That is why Obama did everything that a Bush would do. They share the same puppet-masters.
        Remember that CHANGE thingy? Well, nothing did change, did it?

  • Mithrandir

    Not to mention that many scholars argue about his Origins, History says he was Genoese, some scholars on the other hand contend that he was Catalan, while some even say he may have been Spanish-Jewish. So much mystery for a man so famous.

    • Spartacross

      Honestly, no one else noticed the Greek ending of his name? How often do Spanish or Italian names end in -os?
      Not much to be proud for him but there is a theory he was from the Greek island of Chios.

  • Scott

    I bet he was homely.

  • Actuator

    Nobody knows how Jesus looked like. But, we all can instantly “recognize” his face. Can’t we?

    • TheMadHatter

      True, very true. But Christopher Columbus is pretty dead… I find it unlikely that we should see him anytime soon. I should probably stop before this sparks a religious debate.

  • Retro_Smoke

    Christopher Columbus didn’t discover the Americas. Stop believing this Caucasian revisionist propaganda. The Americas were already occupied upon their discovery and were simply infiltrated by the Europeans.

    • Dalton

      Really you think we are all unaware peoples were already here? Think your breaking the news of NATIVE Americans? Or are you speaking of the Vikings who found Canada fought w natives n left? Either way if we are reading this article we are probly history buffs who already kno these well known facts u butthole.

    • Scott

      WOW dude you are so smart!

    • lbatfish

      Despite the efforts being made at the time.

  • TheStupidityofLiberals

    I hope he didn’t look like a libtard.

  • Marozia

    Only Chris, his family and friends knew what he looked like.

  • kukisvoomchor

    There’s still hope. In 2006, those celebrated remains in the Seville Cathedral were identified as those of Christopher Columbus by comparing their DNA with the known DNA from his brother Diego’s remains. The team was led by Spanish geneticist Jose Antonio Lorente. These particular findings have been disputed by Dominican Republic partisans (no surprise there), but in any case it should at some point be quite feasible to reconstruct an individual’s appearance from salvageable DNA. Already such things as hair and eye color can be inferred.

  • GretaSchlachter

    I can not make a prediction for this person to look like which person.
    http://storify.com/heidiverrett/yacon-molasses-promote-healthy-weight-loss-without

  • asda

    no one knows despite the fact that the queens personal painter or whatever they were called painted his portrait? hurry up and tell me how they lost that one.