The portrait has long been known as ‘La Dama in Rosso’ – the lady in red. Moroni especially favoured pink or orange-reds. Here he has complemented the colour of the dress in the pinky-orange circles of Verona marble set in the floor. The sitter’s clothes are made of the most luxurious materials and must have been the latest fashion.
The woman is probably Contessa Lucia, wife of Faustino Avogadro, who is thought to be the man portrayed in A Knight with his Jousting Helmet (National Gallery, London). Lucia’s grandfather, Francesco Albani, is probably the sitter in a portrait by Cariani which is also in the National Gallery.
Lucia took great delight in literature and poetry. She is said to have to have written a series of sonnets when she was 15 or 16 years old, and her literary reputation was also praised after her marriage. Her sonnets were collected after her death in a manuscript decorated with her profile portrait.
The portrait has long been known as ‘La Dama in Rosso’ – the lady in red. Pink or orange-reds were fashionable in mid-sixteenth century Italy, but they were especially favoured by Moroni. Here he has complemented the colour of the dress in the pinky-orange circles of Verona marble set in the floor.
The lady’s clothes are made of the most luxurious materials and they must have been the latest fashion. The distinctive braided vertical slits on her dress and the checked pattern of her under-dress all suggest a date towards the end of the 1550s. Her fan is unusual and it is curious that its handle is concealed: this was generally the most precious part, which was subject to sumptuary laws that restricted the wearing of luxury items.
An inventory of 1715 from the Avogadro palace in Brescia identifies the sitter as the Contessa Lucia, wife of Faustino Avogadro, who is thought to be the man portrayed in A Knight with his Jousting Helmet. It might be expected that portraits of a husband and wife by the same artist in the same collection would be similar in appearance. In fact, the two pictures are different in size and their settings have nothing in common. Her portrait is designed to be viewed with our eyes more or less level with those of the sitter, whereas his portrait is designed to be seen from below. The sitters do not look towards each other, as is usual in pendant portraits of a husband and wife, but both are turned to the right, their eyes meeting ours. It is unlikely that these two portraits were intended to be displayed as a pair. However, Moroni’s portraits of Gian Gerolamo Grumelli and his second wife Isotta Brembati (collection of Conti Moroni in Bergamo), which have always been kept together, were not made at the same date and display the same differences as the National Gallery’s paintings.
Lucia Albani Avogadro was the daughter of the Bergamask nobleman Giangirolamo Albani (1509–91) and the Venetian aristocrat Laura Longhi. Her father was painted by Moroni in about 1565–70 (Roncalli Collection, Rome) and her grandfather, Francesco Albani, is probably the sitter in Cariani’s portrait, also in our collection.
Lucia was born about 1534 and married her kinsman Faustino Avogadro of Brescia in 1550. She took great delight in literature and poetry and is said to have to have written a series of sonnets when she was 15 or 16 years old. Her literary reputation was also praised after her marriage and her sonnets were collected after her death in a manuscript decorated with her profile portrait.
When a feud between the Albani and Brembati families culminated in the assassination of Conte Achille Brembati in S. Maria Maggiore in 1563, Lucia and her husband left Brescia for Ferrara. He died there in the following year and she seems to have died shortly before 1568. She was survived by three sons. If this portrait does represent Lucia Albani, it probably dates from before 1563, when she left Brescia.
Strips of canvas have been added at the upper and lower edges, probably during a restoration in the eighteenth century. This may have been a response to Moroni’s frequent practice of leaving very little space between the top of the sitter’s head and the edge of the canvas.
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