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Italian, Florentine, Portrait of a Lady in Red

Key facts
Full title Portrait of a Lady in Red
Artist Italian, Florentine
Date made probably 1460-70
Medium and support Oil and tempera on wood
Dimensions 42 × 29 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1857
Inventory number NG585
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Portrait of a Lady in Red
Italian, Florentine

This portrait was probably commissioned at the time of this woman’s marriage, probably by the family of her future husband. She is presented in the finest jewel-encrusted accessories: her headdress is sewn with pearls and gems in a fan pattern, and the pearl adornments of her transparent veil tickle her smooth shoulders. The pearl was associated with purity, an essential and celebrated quality for a young woman about to be married.

The profile view recalls Renaissance portrait medals, the reverses of which featured visual allegories representing virtues such as modesty or chastity, deemed suitable for a wife. This picture was bought by the National Gallery as a portrait of Isotta da Rimini by Piero della Francesca, possibly on the basis of comparison with a portrait medal. In the medal, however, Isotta’s nose is shorter and straighter than here.

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