Oval canvas, female figure holding a bowl.

Bust of a Woman Wearing a Turban, c. 1640–42


Oil on canvasexpand_more

The John R. Van Derlip Fundexpand_more  66.38

Not on Viewexpand_more

When Guido Reni died in 1642, he was the most famous artist in Italy, and his sought-after paintings became even more valuable, including those left unfinished. This late work was likely among the incomplete canvases in his studio. As it passed from one princely collection to another before coming here, the woman’s identity continued to be a source of much speculation. A cardinal identified her as Saint Lucy holding a bowl containing her eyes, extracted during her martyrdom. To others, her turban suggested that she was a sibyl, an ancient Roman prophetess, shown reading signs and foretelling omens; or perhaps she was Circe, the sorceress who turned the Greek hero Odysseus’s companions into pigs. A more recent identification is Porcia, the wife of Brutus, Julius Caesar’s assassin, who killed herself by swallowing burning coals. Unfortunately, the artist’s death before the picture’s completion prevents any definitive conclusion about this young woman’s identity.

Recent conservation of this picture was made possible by a generous contribution from an anonymous patron through Mia’s Adopt-a-Painting program.


Adopt A Painting

Bust of a Woman Wearing a Turban
Artist Life
(Bologna), 1575–1642
Accession Number
Curator Approved

This record has been reviewed by our curatorial staff but may be incomplete. These records are frequently revised and enhanced. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@artsmia.org.

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Oval canvas, female figure holding a bowl.