A striking young woman—with loose, untied hair and sleeves and a richly jeweled but informal gown—returns the viewer’s gaze. In her time, a viewer would have seen her as being in a state of semiundress. She cradles an apple in her hands, which in art often connotes female sexuality.
Despite the painting’s portraitlike format, Titian probably did not depict a specific person here. He and other Venetian artists of the day painted many pictures representing beautiful young women, but it is often unclear whether such pictures are meant to be recognizable portraits of members of contemporary society or idealized images of anonymous beauties. Although the images may reflect Venetian courtesan culture of the period, there is no evidence that real courtesans had themselves portrayed in this way. Rather, such pictures may be interpreted as fanciful portrayals of female beauty, designed to appeal to the eyes of the painting’s owner.
The picture has been the subject of debate with regard both to its subject and its authorship.
“Quella Donna che ha la veste azurra.” See Rona Goffen, Titian’s Women (New Haven and London, 1997), 80–81, 296 n. 119, with references.
See Provenance notes.
Fern Rusk Shapley, Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XV–XVI Century (London, 1968), 186–187; Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings (Washington, DC, 1979), 1:495–496.
The last two of these were already quoted and illustrated by Detlev von Hadeln, “Das Problem der Lavinia-Bildnisse,” Pantheon 7 (1931): 86. See also Harold Wethey, The Paintings of Titian (London, 1971), 2:187.
Paul Joannides and Rupert Featherstone, “A Painting by Titian from the Spanish Royal Collection at Apsley House, London,” Hamilton Kerr Institute Bulletin 5 (2014): 68, 72–73.
Shapley, following Detlev von Hadeln,
Detlev von Hadeln, “Das Problem der Lavinia-Bildnisse,” Pantheon 7 (1931): 86.
See Carol M. Schuler, “The Courtesan in Art: Historical Fact or Modern Fantasy?” Women’s Studies 19 (1991): 209–221; and Mary Rogers, “Fashioning Identities for the Renaissance Courtesan,” in Fashioning Identities in Renaissance Art, ed. Mary Rogers (Aldershot, 2000), 91–105; for a divergent view, see Cathy Santore, “The Tools of Venus,” Renaissance Studies 11 (1997): 179–207. For the wider interpretative problem, see Anne Christine Junkerman, Bellissima Donna: An Interdisciplinary Study of Venetian Sensuous Half-Length Images of the Early Sixteenth Century (PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1988); Augusto Gentili, “Amore e amorose persone: Tra miti ovidiani, allegorie musicali, celebrazioni matrimoniali,” in Tiziano: Amor sacro e amor profano, ed. Maria Grazia Bernardini (Milan, 1995), 82–105; Patricia Simons, “Portraiture, Portrayal, and Idealization: Ambiguous Individualism in Representations of Renaissance Women,” in Language and Images of Renaissance Italy, ed. Alison Brown (Oxford, 1995), 263–311; Rona Goffen, Titian’s Women (New Haven and London, 1997), 45–106; and most recently, Luke Syson, “Belle: Picturing Beautiful Women,” in Art and Love in Renaissance Italy, ed. Andrea Bayer (New Haven and London, 2008), 246–254.
Philip Rylands, Palma Vecchio (Cambridge, 1992), 92. The writer convincingly identified the picture, which he dated to circa 1516–1518, with an item described in the posthumous inventory of Palma’s possessions (1528) as “1 quareto de un retrato de una d. de q.2 in ca., con vesta de veludo cremesin con un pomo in man.” Despite the figure’s respectable dress, and the description of the picture as a “retrato,” its status as a portrait of a particular woman must remain a matter of debate.
Harold Wethey, The Paintings of Titian (London, 1971), 2:186–187.
Critics have varied greatly in their assessment of the quality of the picture. Wilhelm Suida, Bernard Berenson, Rodolfo Pallucchini, and Francesco Valcanover all accepted it as an autograph work by Titian.
Wilhelm Suida, Tizian (Zurich and Leipzig, 1933), 109, 168; Wilhelm Suida, “Die Sammlung Kress: New York,” Pantheon 26 (1940): 278, 280; Bernard Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Venetian School (London, 1957), 1:192; Rodolfo Pallucchini, Tiziano (Florence, 1969), 1:137, 301; Francesco Valcanover, L’opera completa di Tiziano (Milan, 1969), 124.
Oskar Fischel, Tizian: Des Meisters Gemälde, 5th ed. (Stuttgart, 1924), 318, no. 176; Detlev von Hadeln, “Das Problem der Lavinia-Bildnisse,” Pantheon 7 (1931): 86; Harold Wethey, The Paintings of Titian (London, 1971), 2:186–187. Similarly, Hans Tietze and Erika Tietze-Conrat (MS opinion, 1946, in NGA curatorial files) denied Titian’s authorship and Hans Tietze excluded the picture from his monograph, Titian: The Paintings and Drawings (London, 1950). Francesco Valcanover, Tutta la pittura di Tiziano (Milan, 1960), 2:69, no. 165, listed it among the dubious works.
Giorgio Tagliaferro and Bernard Aikema, with Matteo Mancini and Andrew John, Le botteghe di Tiziano (Florence, 2009), 266–267; Paul Joannides and Rupert Featherstone, “A Painting by Titian from the Spanish Royal Collection at Apsley House, London,” Hamilton Kerr Institute Bulletin 5 (2014): 68, 72–73.
Although Tagliaferro suggested a dating of the picture to the later 1550s, the slightly earlier dating to circa 1550/1555 suggested by Suida, Pallucchini, and Valcanover is probably more accurate. Indeed, a dating for stylistic reasons to the later 1540s cannot be excluded,
Nicholas Penny (letter to Peter Humfrey of Nov. 17, 2001, in NGA curatorial files) has dated the picture to the 1540s.
Paul Joannides and Rupert Featherstone, “A Painting by Titian from the Spanish Royal Collection at Apsley House, London,” Hamilton Kerr Institute Bulletin 5 (2014): 73. For this painting, see Harold Wethey, The Paintings of Titian (London, 1969), 1:130–131, cat. 97.
For which, see Giorgio Tagliaferro, in Le botteghe di Tiziano (Florence, 2009), 265–270; and Paul Joannides and Rupert Featherstone, “A Painting by Titian from the Spanish Royal Collection at Apsley House, London,” Hamilton Kerr Institute Bulletin 5 (2014): 66–79, with a fuller list.
March 21, 2019
Probably Michel Particelli d'Hémery [1596-1650], Paris; by inheritance to his son-in-law, Louis Phélypeaux de La Vrillière [1599-1681]. George Wilbraham, M.P. [1779-1852], Delamere House, near Northwich, Cheshire, by 1829; probably by inheritance to his son, George Fortescue Wilbraham [1815-1885], Delamere House, by 1883; probably by inheritance to his son, Major Hugh Edward Wilbraham, M.B.E. [1857-1930], Delamere House, by 1914; purchased January 1929 by (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris); sold 1938 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1939 to NGA.
- British Institution, London, 1829, no. 161, as Titian's Daughter.
- Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters and by Deceased Masters of the British School; including a special selection from the works of John Linnell and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1883, no. 191, as Caterina Cornaro, Queen of Cyprus.
- The Venetian School. Pictures by Titian and his Contemporaries, Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1915, no. 19, pl. XII.
- Masterpieces of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300-1800, New York World's Fair, 1939, no. 383.
- Italian Renaissance Portraits, M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1940, no. 21, repro., as Presumed to be Portrait of Giulia di Gonzago-Colonna, Duchess of Trajetto.
- Obras Maestras de la National Gallery of Art de Washington, Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City, 1996-1997, unnumbered catalogue, color repro.
- Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art; Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, 1999, no. 78, repro.
- Der Poesie der venezianischen Malerei: Paris Bordone, Palma il Vecchio, Lorenzo Lotto, Tizian, Hamburger Kunsthalle, 2017,
Painted on a single piece of fine-woven fabric, the picture measured 45 1/4 by 35 1/4 inches when in the Wilbraham collection (see the photographs in the catalog of the exhibition at the Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1915, plate 12, and in Wilhelm Suida, Tizian [Zurich and Leipzig, 1933], p. CXCVII). The present lack of weave distortion indicates that the picture has been cut down on all four edges; yet for visual reasons, it is most unlikely that the original canvas was much larger. Documentation from a treatment that took place in Paris in 1929, including photographs, indicates that strips from another painting, each four to five inches wide, had been added to all four edges. These additions were removed or reduced during the 1929 treatment.
Duveen Brothers Records, accession number 960015, Research Library, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles: Series II.A, Files regarding works of art, reel 158, box 303: Weyden, van der–Zurbarán, folder 7: Wilbraham Collection. This treatment was probably accomplished by Madame Helfer, because she restored many paintings in Paris for Duveen Brothers.
The painting was prepared with a very thin layer of porous material, probably gesso, laid on the fabric; it barely fills the interstices of the fabric weave and cannot be seen on top of the threads. A layer of gray lies under the background and flesh tones, while white underlies the green gown. The picture has an incomprehensible, blocky form in a material that is opaque to x-radiography (probably lead white) at the top and a band of the same material at the bottom of the present composition. Although no underdrawing has been detected, in November 2015 a tracing of the composition was laid over the probably slightly variant version in the Wellington Collection, Apsley House, London: A Young Woman Holding Rose Garlands, attributed to Titian and a collaborator. While the scales of the respective heads match closely, and the contours of the proper right side of the face correspond exactly, other contours show a much looser correspondence, as if the master had shifted some sort of simple tracing during the process of transfer. The paint layer is extensively damaged, with abrasion and loss throughout and a good deal of retouching. In addition to the 1929 treatment, the Samuel H. Kress Collection National Gallery of Art Condition and Restoration Record reports that Stephen Pichetto “relined, cleaned, and restored [the painting] in dry color and damar” in 1937–1939, and in 1955 Mario Modestini “revived color” and applied varnish.
Samuel H. Kress Collection National Gallery of Art Condition and Restoration Record in NGA curatorial files. The Duveen records indicate that the painting was cleaned in 1937. Duveen Brothers Records, accession number 960015, Research Library, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles: Series II.A, Files regarding works of art, reel 150, box 295: Titian, folder 18: Titian, Portrait of a Lady, ex H. E. Wilbraham.
Peter Humfrey and Joanna Dunn based on the examination reports by Catherine Metzger and Joanna Dunn
March 21, 2019
- Fischel, Oskar. Tizian: Des Meisters Gemälde. 5th ed. Stuttgart, 1924: 318 no. 176.
- Hadeln, Detlev von. “Das Problem der Lavinia-Bildnisse.” Pantheon 7 (1931): 86.
- Suida, Wilhelm. Tizian. Zürich and Leipzig, 1933: 109, 168.
- Frankfurter, Alfred M. "Great Renaissance Portraits: A Unique Exhibition of Twenty-five Italian Masterpieces." Art News (March 16, 1940): 7-9, 21.
- Suida, Wilhelm. "Die Sammlung Kress: New York." Pantheon 26 (1940): 278, 280.
- Duveen Brothers. Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941: nos. 155-157, repros., as Portrait of Giulia di Gonzaga-Colonna [Presumed].
- Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 197-198, no. 403, as Portrait of a Lady (Giulia di Gonzaga-Colonna ?).
- Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 247, repro. 198, as Portrait of a Lady (Giulia di Gonzaga-Colonna ?).
- Frankfurter, Alfred M. The Kress Collection in the National Gallery. New York, 1944: 53, repro.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1945 (reprinted 1947, 1949): 125, repro.
- Morassi, Antonio. “Titian.” In Encyclopedia of World Art. 17+ vols. London, 1959+: 14(1967):col. 146.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 194, repro.
- Valcanover, Francesco. Tutta la pittura di Tiziano. 2 vols. Milan, 1960: 2:69 no. 165.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 129.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 117, repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XV-XVI Century. London, 1968: 186-187, fig. 435.
- Pallucchini, Rodolfo. Tiziano. 2 vols. Florence, 1969: 1:137, 301.
- Valcanover, Francesco. L’opera completa di Tiziano. Milan, 1969: 124.
- Wethey, Harold. The Paintings of Titian. 3 vols. London, 1969-1975: 2(1971):186-187.
- Fredericksen, Burton B., and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972: 203, 531, 646.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 344, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: no. 260.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1979: 1:495-496, 2:pl. 349, as Attributed to Titian.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 210, no. 254, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 395, repro.
- Valcanover, Francesco. Tiziano: I suoi pennelli sempre partorirono espressioni di vita. Florence, 1999: 267.
- Humfrey, Peter. Titian: The Complete Paintings. Ghent and New York, 2007: 284.
- Tagliaferro, Giorgio, and Bernard Aikema, with Matteo Mancini and Andrew John. Le botteghe di Tiziano. Florence, 2009: 266-267.
- Szanto, Mickaël. “Venise, Reni et la romanité. La collection de tableaux de Michel Particelli d’Hémery (1650).” In Venise & Paris 1500–1700: La peinture vénitienne de la Renaissance et sa réception en France. Edited by Michel Hochmann. Geneva, 2011: 224, 259, 274.
- Joannides, Paul, and Rupert Featherstone. “A Painting by Titian from the Spanish Royal Collection at Apsley House, London.” Hamilton Kerr Institute Bulletin 5 (2014): 68, 72-73.
- Luchs, Alison. “The Little Dancer in Wax and Words: Reading a Sonnet by Edgar Degas.” In Degas, Daphne Barbour and Suzanne Quillen Lomax, eds. Facture. Conservation, Science, Art History 2 (2017): 167-168, fig. 14.