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Dosso Dossi, A Man embracing a Woman

Key facts
Full title A Man embracing a Woman
Artist Dosso Dossi
Artist dates about 1486 - 1542
Date made 1524-6
Medium and support Oil on poplar
Dimensions 55.1 × 75.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1887
Inventory number NG1234
Location Room 10
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Man embracing a Woman
Dosso Dossi

This picture is made up of fragments from a circular painting (tondo) that was originally part of a ceiling decoration. It was commissioned in 1524 by Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, for his castle in Ferrara. Originally it had five figures. The other surviving fragment, Boy with a Basket of Flowers, is now in the Fondazione Longhi in Florence. All knowledge of the original meaning of the painting has been lost.

In the National Gallery’s picture the figures are painted as if seen from below. The woman, whose blonde curls are crowned with a wreath of jasmine, appears to be speaking or singing. The surviving fragment of her hand suggests she was perhaps about to drop something into our space below. The man, who may be a court dwarf, has a sprig of jasmine tucked behind his left ear. The boy in the Fondazione Longhi fragment is laughing and about to tip his flowers on our heads.

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