National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Portrait of a Lady Neroccio de' Landi (artist)
Sienese, 1447 - 1500
Portrait of a Lady, c. 1485
tempera on panel
painted surface: 47 x 30.5 cm (18 1/2 x 12 in.) overall (engaged frame): 61.8 x 45.6 x 5.2 cm (24 5/16 x 17 15/16 x 2 1/16 in.)
Widener Collection
1942.9.47
On View
From the Tour: Siena in the 1400s
Object 5 of 7

This is often described as one of the earliest portraits from Renaissance Siena. While humanism and a focus on man and individual accomplishment had helped create a market for portraiture in Florence in the mid 1400s, in Siena it remained rare. There was little demand for private secular art of any kind until the last quarter of the century, when humanism finally asserted itself following the election of Pope Pius II, the former Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini. A member of a prominent Sienese family and noted humanist, he was the first pope to write a true autobiography.

The young woman on this panel has a dreamy and idealized beauty, accented by masses of blond hair. (Saint Bernardino preached against women who bleached their hair in the sun and sat in public squares to dry it.) Her three-quarter pose is unusual; most female portraits in Italy at this date were in profile.

Many portraits were commissioned to commemorate a marriage or betrothal. This woman's loose hairstyle suggests that she is not yet married. She may have been a member of the Bandini family, whose crest of sphere- biting eagles appears around the frame, which is probably original. The flames that alternate with the Bandini crest may be a reference to her future husband, or they may hint that her given name was Fiammetta (related to the word for "blaze").

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