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The Sydney J. Freedberg Lecture on Italian Art: Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice? Titian’s Portrait of Clarice Strozzi

Beverly Louise Brown, Fellow, The Warburg Institute. In this lecture, presented on November 19, 2017, Beverly Louise Brown discusses Titian’s portrait of Clarice Strozzi. A popular nineteenth-century nursery rhyme tells us that little boys are made of snips and snails and puppy dog tails while little girls are filled with sugar and spice and all things nice. And who could be nicer than two-year-old Clarice Strozzi, who in Titian’s portrait so sweetly shares a ring-shaped biscuit with her toy spaniel? Today, Instagram abounds in similar snapshots eagerly sent by adoring parents to family and friends. Such images would seem to embody the essence of childhood by celebrating their subjects’ natural spontaneity. They are lasting reminders of the days of childhood innocence. It is in this spirit that we might assume Clarice Strozzi’s parents commissioned her portrait in 1542. But if we look more carefully at Titian’s charming portrayal of a little girl and her dog, we soon discover that it is unlikely to have been a mere celebration of sugar and spice and all things nice.