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Palma Vecchio, A Blonde Woman

Key facts
Full title A Blonde Woman
Artist Palma Vecchio
Artist dates about 1480 - 1528
Date made about 1520
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 77.5 × 64.1 cm
Acquisition credit Mond Bequest, 1924
Inventory number NG3939
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
A Blonde Woman
Palma Vecchio

A voluptuous woman regards us with an inviting sidelong glance that is both reticent and willing. She unveils her charms, and as she does so offers us a posy of flowers. Her chemise has fallen from her shoulder to reveal her breast, the curve of which is emphasised by the line of her blue silk ribbon. She holds buttercups, primroses and forget-me-nots, the colours of which are echoed in her hair, breast, mantle and ribbon.

The flowers may be a poetic allusion to Flora, the goddess of spring; Flora was also a common name for courtesans in sixteenth-century Italy. This painting is typical of a type produced in Venice in the first decades of the 1500s and is related to Titian’s famous beauty Flora (Uffizi, Florence). Palma Vecchio is particularly associated with these half-length images of beautiful fair-haired women, which are not conventional portraits. The same woman seems to appear entirely naked in Palma Vecchio’s Venus and Cupid in a Landscape (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge).

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