National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Marchesa Brigida Spinola Doria Sir Peter Paul Rubens (artist)
Flemish, 1577 - 1640
Marchesa Brigida Spinola Doria, 1606
oil on canvas
overall: 152.5 x 99 cm (60 1/16 x 39 in.) framed: 188 x 134.6 x 10.8 cm (74 x 53 x 4 1/4 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
On View
From the Tour: Sir Peter Paul Rubens
Object 3 of 8

On at least four occasions during his long stay in Italy (1600–1609), Rubens worked in Genoa, a prosperous seaport. He painted this proud Genoese aristocrat in 1606, the year following her marriage. It is one of a number of female portraits Rubens made in Genoa, a city renowned as a paradiso delle donne (a paradise of women). The Genoese republic, governed by a wealthy oligarchy, granted women unusual respect and constitutional freedoms. The marchesa's image conveys both lively humanity and dignity and commands real physical presence. Her gaze, as well as the angle of the architecture, indicates the painting was meant to be seen from below. The painting was much larger and more imposing before the canvas was cut down in the nineteenth century.

The marchesa's stately pose is far from static; it is activated by light, by the diagonal flow of a red curtain, and by Rubens' bravura brushwork. The marchesa's silvery satin dress is built up of layers of translucent glazes and highlighted with thick, freely painted strokes. Rubens combined this bold, painterly style—which he learned from his study of Venetian artists like Veronese, Tintoretto, and Titian—with the tradition for detailed, carefully observed surfaces from his native Flanders. Compare, for example, the expressive painting technique in the dress and curtain with the precise handling of the architecture.

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