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Italian, Venetian, Portrait of a Lady

Key facts
Full title Portrait of a Lady
Artist Italian, Venetian
Date made about 1515-20
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 73 × 57.8 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1858
Inventory number NG595
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Portrait of a Lady
Italian, Venetian

This richly dressed lady, whose identity is unknown, sits behind a parapet against a plain, dark background. Her body is turning slightly away from us and her hand rests on the parapet, making it look as though she might be sitting at an open window. The parapet was a common device in Venetian portraiture of this period in bust-length or three-quarter-length portraits; it positioned the sitter further back in pictorial space and also solved the problem of how to disguise where the lower part of the sitter’s body was cropped.

The lady turns to look to the right. Perhaps she was once looking at a matching portrait of her husband. However, this might simply be the picture of an ideal beauty: such portraits were popular in Venice at this time, particularly by Palma Vecchio, to whom this painting has been attributed in the past. It has also been attributed to Bernardino Licinio, but the condition of the picture makes it difficult to tell for certain who it is by.

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