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Alesso Baldovinetti, Portrait of a Lady

Key facts
Full title Portrait of a Lady
Artist Alesso Baldovinetti
Artist dates about 1426 - 1499
Date made about 1465
Medium and support Tempera and oil on wood
Dimensions 62.9 × 40.6 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1866
Inventory number NG758
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Portrait of a Lady
Alesso Baldovinetti

Golden hair, rosy lips and pale skin were the ideal of feminine beauty in fifteenth-century Florence. All feature in this lady’s portrait, which was probably made to celebrate her marriage.

Around her long neck she wears a strand of orange beads with a pendant set with a large pearl. A cluster of pearls – symbolic of purity, a crucial virtue for marriage – crown her elaborate hairstyle. Baldovinetti has used tiny white dots to emphasise the shape and sheen of the jewels.

Upon the lady’s large puffed sleeve is an embroidery of three palm leaves bound by a ribbon and framed by two gold-veined feathers. This was most probably her future husband’s coat of arms. It was the custom for the groom’s family to provide new clothes and jewellery for the bride. The portrait commemorates these as much as the woman herself and the prominence of their heraldry acts as a visual seal of the marital alliance.

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