Baroque and Rococo

 

Baroque and Rococo Art Map








 

The Art of the Portrait


 


Masterpieces of European Portrait-Painting


1420-1670



 

 

 
   
  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:

Leonardo da Vinci
 



Leonardo da Vinci:


The Lady with the Ermine (Cecilia Gallerani)


 

 


Leonardo da Vinci
Cecilia Gallerani
1484
 

Most Leonardo-experts consider the young woman to be Cecilia Gallerani, the mistress of Lodovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. Her eyes are turned towards her left shoulder, a pose which seems remarkably unstrained for the angle at which her head is turned. The ease of her posture is also suggested by the mellow gentleness of her childlike face, and by the manner in which her tightly-combed hair is wound around her chin like the flaps of a bonnet, its spherical rhythm echoed and varied by the double curves of the necklace looped twice around her neck. Her plainly arranged hair and averted gaze lend the sitter an air of chaste respectabality. Elucidation of the iconographical significance of the ermine, the sitter's attribute, confirms this impression; the effect was evidently intended by both artist and patron. As early as the third century after Christ, in the moral bestiary of the "Physiologus", the ermine's white fur made it a symbol of chastity and purity. As the Greek word for it is (gale), a knowledge of Classics would enable the spectator to see the name of the animal as a pseudo-etymological pun on the first two syllables of the sitter's name (Gallerani). Witty conversational rhetoric of this kind was popular at the courts of Italian princes, and would often include puns on the names of important people. Furthermore, the ermine was one of the emblems on Lodovico's coat of arms; its purpose here was therefore to call attention to his qualities and powers.
The artist's subtle modulation of the ermine's sinewy muscles and emphasis of its extended claws draw attention to the animal's predatory nature, which, though diametrically opposed to its moral and religious significance, is consistent - even without recourse to psychoanalysis - with its obvious sexual symbolism, a metaphor reinforced by the vaginal symbolism of the slit sleeve. It is not unusual to find the theme of sexual potency in Italian Renaissance art (see Bronzino's Andrea Doria as Neptune); what is interesting here is a ludic inclination in pointing to the equivocal nature of conventional morality: a woman was required to be not only chaste, but a devoted mistress.
The background, with the inscription "LA BELLE FERONIERE", was added later, and was not painted by Leonardo. The patination of the oil surface, however, intensifies the sharp outline and vivid presence of the fragile figure with her long, slender hand.
The painting is mentioned in a letter from Cecilia Galleram to Isabella d'Este, dated 29 April 1498. Isabella had asked Cecilia to send her the painting. Cecilia replied that she was unable to comply, since "it was painted at a time when she was still very young; in the meantime, however, her appearance had completely altered." It is probably correct to assume that Leonardo painted the portrait when Cecilia became Lodovico's mistress, in other words, shortly after 1481.
 


Leonardo da Vinci
Cecilia Gallerani
(detail)
1484

The ermine was a symbol of chastity and purity.
According to legend, it died if its white coat was soiled.
 


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see also:

Leonardo da Vinci
 


Leonardo da Vinci:
 

Mona Lisa (La Gioconda)


 

 


Leonardo da Vinci
Mona Lisa (La Gioconda)
c. 1503-5
Musee du Louvre, Paris

 




Leonardo da Vinci
Mona Lisa (detail)

Motifs like the veil and "path of virtue" in the landscape background suggest that Mona Lisa was a married woman rather than a mistress.
 

This is probably the most famous Renaissance portrait. So many cliches and trivi-alising stereotypes have come between it and the spectator since it was painted, however, that it hardly seems possible to view it afresh.
The title of the painting can be traced back to Giorgio Vasari, who testified that Leonardo's sitter was Monna (= Madonna) Lisa (= Elisabeta). Born in 1479 in Florence, she married the Marchese Francesco di Bartolomeo di Zanobi del Giocondo in 1495, whose name provided the title usually given to the painting in Italy and France: La Gioconda.
The painting's association with France began early. On 10 October 1517, it was seen at Cloux, near Amboise, by the Cardinal d'Aragon and his secretary Antonio de Beatis. Vasari's testimony has been called into question by Antonio de Beatis' own statement that Leonardo showed him the painting and told him he had painted it at the request of Giuliano de' Medici. This has caused some scholars to conclude that the woman in the portrait is Giuliano de' Medici's mistress.
This is hardly the place to discuss problems arising from these contradictory reports, although it must said that the testimony of Antonio de Beatis enjoys the advantage of greater authenticity. Nonetheless, it seems highly unlikely that the sitter was the mistress of a nobleman, since the veil she is wearing - a symbol of "castitias", chastity - was a standard attribute in portraits of married women; it may be seen, for instance, in Bartolommeo da Veneto's Young Woman. Leonardo's sombrely dressed young woman sits in an open loggia (the bases of column supports to her right and left are all that is left of the colonnade). Her upper body is turned slightly inwards, presenting to the spectator an almost full-face view. Leonardo had demanded that the portrait show the "movement of the spirit", a demand he himself fulfilled with this painting. According to Leonardo, the portrait should not restrict itself to the imitation of external reality, but should contrive to translate mental activity into visual effect. At the same time, his subject's famously restrained, practically invisible smile, barely suggested by the shadow hovering at the corner of her mouth - a smile which has inspired almost every possible interpretation, from lust to chastity, from irony to tenderness - represents the dialectical reversal of an already widespread tendency to portray more agitated emotional conditions (see Antonello da Messina's Smiling Man). From a theoretical point of view, it is therefore closer to the technique of "dissimulatio" advocated by Baldassare Castiglione, whereby true feelings were obscured and the resultant ambiguity of the facial expression precluded its interpretation. Emotional and bodily restraint are demonstrated in the pose of Mona Lisa's hands, too. Her left arm leans on the arm of her chair, while her right hand cautiously rests on top of it. This gives the impression of a compact unity, a state at once relaxed and concentrated.
 


Bartolommeo da Veneto
Young Woman (Lucrezia Borgia?)
 

 

In his treatise on painting, Leonardo stated that portraits greatly profited from having their subjects sit in dim light." According to this view, the lighting here is particularly advantageous: the greenish-brown mountainous landscape with its rocky crags in the backgound is shrouded in dusky shadow. The contours blur to the horizon - an example of Leonardo's famous "sfumato". Metaphors from the natural world had been used to characterise psychological states since the high Middle Ages, especially since Petrarch; here, too, the landscape characterises the woman's emotional state. The symbolic content, a composite ideal landscape, is conventional. Thus the winding path (or river?) on the left must be seen as an allusion to the story of Hercules' choice (told by Xenophon, Memorabilia 2, l-22ff., and constantly referred to in Renaissance art), in which a narrow path winding through a barren, rocky landscape is described as the path of virtue. An allegory of virtue would hardly seem to support the idea that the lady was a mistress. Together with the veil-motif, the path symbolism appears rather to bear out the contention that the woman is a "donna", a married woman.
Martin Kemp has shown that Leonardo intended the landscape background to illustrate events in natural history: the origin of certain geological formations. It is well-known that Leonardo undertook various studies of Tuscan geographical features in connection with plans to construct a system of canals along the Arno. In so doing, he arrived at a similar conclusion to Giovanni Villani (c. 1276-1348), who, in his "Florentine Chronicles" (Cromche fi-orentine), asserted that the Arno had once been dammed up by an enormous "barrier of rock", behind which had been two lakes. According to Kemp, these two lakes appear in the landscape behind the "Mona Lisa" as "primeval progenitors of the Arno valley". What is more, the natural events alluded to in the background are echoed in details of the woman's face and clothes. Kemp goes on to provide evidence that an analogy of this kind was actually intended by Leonardo, quoting various remarks made by the artist, for example his comparison of the fall of hair with running water. Whatever may be said in defence of Kemp's theses, and there is much to recommend them, it must nonetheless be pointed out that this landscape can hardly be described as "untouched", pure Nature, predating Man's intervention. The stone bridge with its many arches at the right of the painting betrays the presence of a civilizing agent. Perhaps Leonardo was pointing here to the particular importance of the work of architects and engineers, of which he himself was one. Leonardo would certainly have been familiar with the paramount significance attached to bridge-building in ancient Rome (described by Varro and Plutarch); this was carried out under the supervision of one of the highest authorities in the Republic, namely the Pontifex Maximus.
 


Leonardo da Vinci
Mona Lisa (detail)

 


Leonardo da Vinci
Mona Lisa (detail)

 


Leonardo da Vinci
Mona Lisa (detail)

 

 


Leonardo da Vinci
Hand Study
1490
Her famous smile has inspired almost every possible interpretation, and yet it may not express a particular emotion at all. Perhaps it denotes an attempt to disguise feelings that would otherwise seem too obvious by presenting a balance between different emotional extremes. If so, it is a sign of emotional and physical restraint, like her hands, whose pose suggests a state at once relaxed and concentrated.
 


Leonardo da Vinci
Mona Lisa (detail)

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