Baroque and Rococo


Baroque and Rococo Art Map


The Art of the Portrait


Masterpieces of European Portrait-Painting




  The Art of the Portrait
  The Great Age of the Portrait
  Origins of the Portrait
  Jan van Eyck: Tymotheos
  Jan van Eyck: The Marriage of Giovanni Arnolfini
  Jan van Eyck: The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin
  Rogier van der Weyden: Portrait of a Lady
  Jean Fouquet: Etienne Chevalier Presented by St Stephen
  Hans Memling: Man with a Roman Coin
  Antonello da Messina: Portrit of a Man, known as "Il Condottiere"
  Early Portrait of a Ruler
  Piero della Francesca: Federigo da Montefeltro and his Wife Battista Sforza
  Portraits of Renaissance Women
  Pisanello: Young Lady of the Este Family
  Leonardo da Vinci: The Lady with the Ermine (Cecilia Gallerani)
  Leonardo da Vinci: Mona Lisa (La Gioconda)
  Giorgione: Portrait of a Young Lady ("Laura")
  Piero di Cosimo: Simonetta Vespucci
  Agnolo Bronzino: Laura Battiferri
  The Psychological Portrait
  Lorenzo Lotto: Young Man before a White Curtain
  Lorenzo Lotto: Man with a Golden Paw
  Moretto da Brescia: Portrait of a Young Man
  Portraits and Caricatures
  Quentin Massys: Old Woman (The Queen of Tunis)
  Portraits of Renaissance Humanists
  Luca Signorelli: Portrait of a Middle-Aged Man
  Agnolo Bronzino: Portrait of Ugolino Martelli
  Raphael: Baldassare Castiglione
  Lucas Cranach the Elder: Dr. Cuspinian and his Wife
  Hans Holbein the Younger: Erasmus of Rotterdam
  Mythologising Portraits
  Agnolo Bronzino: Andrea Doria as Neptune
  Nicoletto da Modena (?): Francis I of France as an Antique God
  Portraits of Popes and Cardinals
  Raphael: Pope Leo X with Cardinals Giuliano de' Medici and Luigi de Rossi
  Titian: Pope Paul III, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese and Duke Ottavio Farnese
  Portraits of Artists and Collectors
  Lorenzo Lotto: Andrea Odoni
  Titian: Jacopo de Strada
  Artists' Self-Portraits
  Albrecht Durer: Self-Portrait with a Fur Coat
  Nicolas Poussin: Self-Portrait
  Rembrandt: Self-Portraits
  Portrait of a Friend
  Hans Holbein the Younger: The French Ambassadors to the English Court
  "Teste Composte"
  Giuseppe Arcimboldo: Vertumnus
  Portraits of 16th and 17th-century Rulers
  Titian: Emperor Charles V after the Battle of Miihlberg
  Anthony van Dyck: Charles I of England, Hunting
  Hyacinthe Rigaud: Louis XIV of France
  Philippe de Champaigne: Triple Portrait of Cardinal Richelieu
  Marriage and Family Portraits
  Peter Paul Rubens: Rubens and Isabella Brant under the Honeysuckle
  Jacob Jordaens: The Artist and his Family
  Portraits of Children
  Giovanni Francesco Caroto: Boy with a Drawing
  Jan van Scorel: The Schoolboy
  Diego Velazquez: The Infante Philip Prosper
  Dutch Civic Guard Portraits
  Rembrandt: "The Night Watch"
  Portraits of Regents
  Frans Hals: The Governors of the Old Men's Almshouse at Haarlem
  Anatomy Lessons
  Rembrandt: The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp
  Portraits of Fools and Dwarfs
  Diego Velazquez: The Dwarf "El Primo"



Portraits of Renaissance Women


see also:



Portrait of a Young Lady ("Laura")



Art History Museum, Vienna

Giorgione's paintings, especially his Poesie, appear enigmatic to today's spectator. They express a private mythology, eluding conventional interpretation. In fact, the artist transformed traditional iconographical subjects at the behest of his patrons, who wished their paintings full of riddles. He thus invented a new pictorial language which was open to quite different interpretations, and whose sense soon became untranslatable after Giorgione's death. Nonetheless, it is worth bearing in mind that a relationship - however difficult to define - must exist between Giorgione's most innovative work on the one hand, and more traditional themes and subjects on the other, since it was from the latter that his "free" associations departed.
Like his Poesie, Giorgione's painting of a young woman before a dark background, now at Vienna, is enigmatic. The almost symbiotic relationship between the figure and the laurel is initially reminiscent of mythological themes - the Daphne myth in Ovid's "Metamorphoses" 1 (452 ff.), for example.' However, it is probably quite correct to describe the painting as a portrait, and to see in the laurel an allusion to the sitter's name. The implication here is that her name must be "Laura", an assumption already prevalent by the seventeenth century, when it was thought the painting depicted the woman loved by Petrarch.
In a painting by David Temers showing the Archduke Leopold Wilhelm's galleries at Brussels, Giorgione's painting is recognisable as a knee-length portrait. The lower part must therefore have been cut off at a later date. In the original, the woman's left hand is shown resting on her belly, whose rounded contours, emphasised by her bulging, red, fur-lined gown, suggest that she is expecting a child. However, as in van Eyck's Arnolfini-portrait, where Jeanne Cenami is shown gathering up her dress in front of her belly, it is perhaps wiser to assume that the symbolic gesture of a hand laid on the belly does not indicate that the sitter is pregnant, but rather predicts, or promises, a fertile marriage blessed with a large number of children. Attempts to identify the sitter with various courtesans or poetesses of noble birth - Vittona Colonna, Domemca Grimani and Veronica Gambara have been mentioned in this context - carry little conviction. It is only from the prudish perspective of the nineteenth or early twentieth century that the baring of a breast would be viewed as debauched or meretricious. In the sixteenth century, nudity did not provoke disapproval, but was shown publicly and uninhibitedly. This painting, too, was publicly shown, probably by a proud noble who wished to celebrate his bride's attractiveness - her somewhat pycnic build was fully in keeping with contemporary Venetian ideals of beauty - as well as her virtue and chastity. The laurel was considered a symbol of virtue, as seen in Lorenzo de' Medici's "impresa", where it was accompanied by the motto: "Ita ut virtus". The veil wound about her shoulders and upper body is a bridal veil, and her bared right breast alludes to the proverbial chastity of the Amazons, who, according to antique legend, tolerated men only as a means of sexual reproduction, not, however, as a means of sexual gratification. Since contemporary morality permitted sexual reproduction only within the institution of marriage, the allusion to the Amazons implied a wife's commitment to conjugal fidelity.


Antonio del Pollaiuolo
Apollo and Daphne




see also:

Piero di Cosimo

Piero di Cosimo:

Simonetta Vespucci



Piero di Cosimo
Simonetta Vespucci



As in Giorgione's Laura, Simonetta's naked breasts are an allusion to the Amazons, to whom antique legend attributed ex ceptinal chastity.


Here, Piero di Cosimo has chosen a portrait type which was already outmoded by the time he came to paint it (c. 1520).The profile view may have been borrowed from a medal portrait used by Piero as a model, since Simonetta Vespucci, whose latinized name appears on the strip along the bottom of the painting, had died of consumption in 1476. Simonetta was the mistress of Giuliano de' Medici (1453-1478). Angelo Poliziano (1454-1494), a Florentine poet close to the Medici family, extols her grace and beauty in a renowned love poem: "La bella Simonetta". In the poem he compares her to a nymph frolicking with her playmates on a meadow:

"...Thus Amor sent his brightly burning spirits forth from eyes so sweet to fire the hearts of men.
A miracle it was
that I did not at once reduce to ash."

Poliziano eulogizes her "animated face", framed by loosely hanging golden hair - a symbol of Simonetta's virginal purity. In Piero di Cosimo's painting, in contrast, the young woman wears the elegantly plaited hair-style of a "Donna": a complex arrangement of braids decorated with pearls and intertwined with strings of beads. Her high, shaved forehead corresponds to a fashion in Italian, as well as Netherlandish, aristocratic circles in the last quarter of the fifteenth century. Unlike Antonio del Pollaiuolo's profile of a young woman'', painted c. 1465, almost a cameo-portrait against an even blue sky, Piero di Cosimo seeks to characterise Simonetta's mood by posing her against an atmospheric landscape. There is something gloomy in the repetitive, almost laminated outlines of the evening clouds, possibly evoking the mood of her early death. This corresponds to the withered tree on the left, a symbol which usually stands for death in Italian Renaissance landscape backgrounds. The motif is echoed by the snake wound around her necklace. Giorgio Vasari, who evidently was not acquainted with symbolism of this kind, saw in this an allusion to Cleopatra, who, according to Plutarch, had died from the bite of an asp. This explanation is unconvincing, however. It is more likely that the snake is a reference to the "hieroglyphic" symbolism of Egyptian "impresa". In the mythography of late Classical antiquity, the snake, especially when shown biting its own tail, was a symbol for eternity, or for time's rejuvenating cycle. It was therefore attributed to Janus, the god of the new year, and to Saturn (Kronos, whose name was often confused with time, Chronos), or "Father Time". In the inscription Simonetta is described as "Ianuensis" (belonging to Janus). The snake was also the symbol of Prudentia. Thus Simonetta is praised for her wisdom. Her contemporaries would not have been offended by her naked breasts. As in Titian's Venus at her Mirror, this motif may be seen as an allusion to the "Venus pudica", or "chaste" Venus. In Pans Bordone's allegories on the subject of lovers, executed c. 1550, it was a bridal symbol. Thus Simonetta is honoured not as Giuliano de' Medici's mistress, but as his betrothed, or perhaps even as his wife.

Piero di Cosimo
Simonetta Vespucci

The withered tree often symbolised death in Italian Renaissance landscapes.


Piero di Cosimo
Simonetta Vespucci

Simonetta was a member of the rich Florentine Vespucci family.
She was related to the famous merchant and discoverer
Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512), who gave his first name
to the American continent.


see also:


Agnolo Bronzino:

Laura Battiferri



Agnolo Bronzino
Laura Battiferri

Oil on canvas, 83 x 60 cm
Palazzo Vecchio, Florence


Agnolo Bronzino
Laura Battiferri

Agnolo Bronzino's Laura Battiferri is one of the most fascinating Italian Renaissance portraits of women.Reverting in deliberately archaistic manner to a prototype found in the early quattrocento, the artist has portrayed the sitter in profile view, a pose reminiscent of the medal portrait. The upper part of her body with the small head is disproportionately elongated, emphasising the projection of her strikingly large, slightly hooked nose. Laura Battiferri is wearing a transparent veil, which hangs down from the shell-shaped, calotte-style bonnet covering her tightly combed-back hair onto her goffered shawl and puffed sleeves. While pride - or is it modesty? -makes her avoid eye-contact with the spectator, a gesture which lends her something of the majesty of a high-priestess, the painting is certainly not devoid of gestures "ad spectatorem". The mannered spread of the slender fingers of her left hand marks a place in an open book of Petrarch's sonnets to Laura, with whom the lady in the portrait evidently identifies. According to Petrarch, Laura is an "unapproachable, unattainable beauty... as chaste as the adored mistress of a troubadour, as modest and devout as a 'Stilnovismo Beatrice'". "Laura's personality is even more elusive than her external appearance. She remains the incarnation of chaste and noble beauty."
Laura Battiferri (1523-158?) was born at Urbino, the natural daughter of Giovanni Antonio Battiferri, who later legitimated her. Widowed at an early age, Laura married her second husband, the Florentine sculptor Bartolommeo Ammanati, in 155C. at the age of twenty-seven. The marriage remained childless, Laura referring to herself as a "barren tree". Her poetry found many contemporary admirers. The Spanish court had her literary works translated into Spanish. Important writers and artists, notably Torquato Tasso and Benevenuto Cellini, sought her company.
Laura Battiferri, a supporter of the Jesuitical Counter-Reformation, was reputed to have been a devout Catholic. Her great popularity at the Spanish court confirms this. The demure severity of her pose and dress may reflect the increased rigidity of Catholic ethical norms since the Council of Trent (1545-1563).


Agnolo Bronzino
Laura Battiferri

Laura Battiferi's fingers mark a place in an open book of Petrarch's sonnets to Laura


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