National Gallery at Home: Profile Portraits

Child's recreation of a profile portrait
Antonio del Pollaiuolo's Profile Portrait of a Young Man; Ciara Lawlor's profile portrait of Fiona Lawlor.Credit

Follow along with these simple steps to create your own profile portrait at home, inspired by the drawing Profile Portrait of a Young Man, by one of the Pollaiuolo brothers.

Antonio and Piero del Pollaiuolo were brothers who ran one of the most successful workshops in Florence, Italy, in the fifteenth century. They worked as painters, sculptors, engravers, goldsmiths and designers of embroidery. They often worked together on projects, so we're not 100% sure which brother made this drawing of a young man. It was drawn some time between 1470 and 1475—that's over 500 years ago! It is a "profile portrait" which means it shows the side of the man's face, not the front. Your profile is the outline of your face, seen from the side. 

Let’s make our own profile portrait!

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Profile Portraits

National Gallery at Home



  • A large sheet of white paper
  • Pencils
  • Sticky tack (or something to temporarily stick a piece of paper to a wall)
  • A torch or lamp
  • A willing model! (costume optional) 


We are going to use a silhouette, or shadow technique, to draw the profile. 

  1. Stick the sheet of paper to the wall using sticky tack. 
  2. Ask your model to sit in profile in front of the paper.
  3. Use a torch, or lamp, to cast the shadow of your model's face and head onto the paper. 
  4. Trace the outline of the shadow with your pencil.
  5. Remove the paper from the wall, put it on a table, and use your colours to complete the portrait. 
  6. You can add details from your imagination, like an earring or necklace, or anything else you fancy!


Thank you Ciara Lawlor (age 7) and Fiona Lawlor (model, age 4) for working together on this project, just like the Pollaiuolo brothers!


You can share your creations with us on our online channels using #NationalGalleryIRLAtHome, or email them to us at [email protected] - we'd love to see how you get on! 

This activity, which would normally have taken place in the Maples Group Creative Space, is now brought to you online.

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