Bust-length portrait of an unknown woman

Portrait of a Woman, c. 1495

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This portrait of a prim blond lady is a mystery. It seems Italian, but the sitter possesses some northern European qualities. The headdress, although lacking a tall cone, is inspired by northern fashions, and the jewel is likely Flemish, although it is worn—suspended from a pearl necklace—in a Florentine manner. Her high forehead and plucked hairline and eyebrows reflect conventions of feminine beauty on both sides of the Alps. Yet her straight hair, worn framing her face, is closer to Italian taste. Her winter dress—a golden surcoat over a red gamurra with green sleeves—is also decidedly Italian, as is the choice of silk (rather than velvet or fur) . And the lace decoration, an eagle with open wings and a cross, can be traced to Italian embroidery models. The gems in her pendant are symbolic: diamond for strength, ruby for love, and pearl for fertile chastity. Perhaps the jewel was a nuptial gift, and she is a bride (although the low veil may signify widowhood).

While much about the sitter remains unknown, her personal style leaves no doubt that she is Italian, and the portrait was painted in Florence. The northern flavor has led scholars to attribute it to Benedetto Ghirlandaio, the youngest brother in the Ghirlandaio shop, whose style acquired a French accent after he worked in France for seven years.

Details
Title
Portrait of a Woman
Artist Life
(Florence), 1458 - 1497
Role
Artist
Accession Number
68.41.9
Curator Approved

This record is from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator, so may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our 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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Bust-length portrait of an unknown woman