Without the 16th-century costume or the bust's ovoid shape, we might be tempted to ascribe these starkly realistic features to a conservative matron from Republican Rome, not the gilded republic of Renaissance Venice. And without the mantle loosely resting on her shoulders, we might mistake the sitter for a peasant, not a wealthy patrician. The elderly lady's intelligence and toughness are evident, her chin elevated in pride above a stout neck. The flesh of her face, with its asymmetrical features, seems to bear the imprint of experience and age.
The unknown Venetian artist deftly captured the enduring vitality and mental acuity of his elderly subject—qualities that reflect what we know of her life. Agnesina Badoer Giustinian (c. 1472–1542) was a wealthy heiress and art patron. One of three children of Venetian patrician Girolamo Badoer, Agnesina lost both her brothers and first husband early in life. When her father died in 1497, she became the universal heir of her Badoer line and its fortune, including a residence in Venice and extensive properties on the mainland. She was remarried the same year to the patrician Girolamo Giustinian. From 1511 to 1513 Agnesina and her husband focused their energies on construction of an impressive villa—Castello di Roncade—on Badoer ancestral lands near Treviso.  They also raised the nine children Agnesina bore, two from her first marriage.  From the couple's tax declarations it is clear that Agnesina's wealth and property were much greater than her spouse's.  Her abiding attention to family interests and thorough management come across in the details of her wills, where she forever forbade her children from selling, trading, or otherwise alienating the villa and other properties.  In 1509 she also stipulated that, should she die before him, her husband could live on and enjoy her estate only as long as he did not remarry and have more children. 
This startlingly realistic portrait is probably based on a mask of Agnesina's face taken at the time of her death, at about the age of 70.  The sagging lip may reflect the earlier stroke she is known to have suffered.  Since a terracotta bust of Agnesina, also with her head veiled, is still housed in the chapel of her country house at Roncade, the death mask was most likely commissioned by her children as an act of piety and to provide a fitting memorial in the family chapel. Later, the mask was evidently used again for a more personal commemoration by one of her heirs, resulting in this stunningly vital effigy, one of the few realistic bust portraits of a Venetian from the first half of the 16th century.  The unknown sculptor's dependence on the death mask perhaps limited the degree to which his own style as a sculptor is evident in his work, which may explain why his identity remains unknown. His skill, however, is revealed in the degree to which he has enlivened the cast features. 
1. The Villa Giustinian at Rocade (New York, 1977), 14-15.2. C. Lewis, 288, Table 1. 3. C. Lewis, 15. 4. C. Lewis, 12. 5. C. Lewis, 14. 6. Alison Luchs, Tullio Lombardo and Ideal Portrait Sculpture in Renaissance Venice, 1490-1530 (Cambridge, 1995), 113; Douglas Lewis "The Sculptures in the Chapel of the Villa Giustinian at Rocade, and Their Relation to those in the Giustinian Chapel at San Francesco della Vigna" Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorishen Institues in Florenz 27 (1983), 338. 7. D. Lewis, 338. 8. Luchs, 113. 9. Bruce Boucher, The Sculpture of Jacopo Sansovino, II (New Haven, 1991), 371, n. 116.