Lady with an Ermine, Leonardo da Vinci: Interpretation, Analysis 3 750Раздел в процессе наполнения и корректировки
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Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci Interpretation of Italian Renaissance Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani MAIN A-Z INDEX
Lady with an Ermine Portrait of Cecilia GalleraniBy Leonardo da Vinci.Regarded as one of theGreatest Paintings Ever.
ContentsDescription • Interpretation • Further Resources
Description Painting : Lady with an Ermine (Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani) Date : c.1490 Artist : Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) Medium : Oil painting Genre : Portrait art Movement : High Renaissance art Location : Czartoryski Museum, Krakow.
For more masterpieces, see: Famous Paintings Analyzed.
Art EducationTo appreciate the paintingof the Italian Renaissance, see our educational essays:Art Evaluation and also:How to Appreciate Paintings.
This masterpiece of Renaissance art, one of a handful of Renaissance portraits completed by Leonardo da Vinci, was commissioned by Ludovico Sforza – known as "il Moro", Duke of Milan, for whom Leonardo worked during the period c.1482-99. The lady – actually a 16-year old girl – is Cecilia Gallerani, reputedly the Duke’s favourite mistress, who gave birth to his child in the same year that he married Beatrice d’Este. Holding the armorial animal of Ludovico il Moro in her arms, she is shown turning to the right, her eyes fixed on something off camera, with a hint of a smile on her lips. One of the finest Renaissance paintings, Lady with an Ermine is the main highlight of the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow. Other surviving portrait paintings by Leonardo include: Portrait of a Musician (c.1485, Pinacoteca Ambrosiana); Portrait of a Woman (La Belle Ferroniere) (1494, Louvre); Isabella d’Este (c.1499, Louvre – only the charcoal and red chalk drawing survives); Mona Lisa (La Gioconda) (1503-13, Louvre); Head of a Woman (La Scapiliata) (c.1508, Galleria Nazionale, Parma); St John the Baptist (c.1513, Louvre); Bacchus (St John) (1513-15, Louvre). In the subtlety and grace of his figure painting, Leonardo remains unequalled.
Cecilia GalleraniThis oil painting is executed on a walnut wood panel, primed with a layer of white gesso and brown underpaint. The original background of bluish-grey was repainted in black, allegedly by Eugene Delacroix, during the mid-19th century. Measuring 54 x 40 cm (21 x 16 inches), it shows a half-length figure of a girl (Cecilia Gallerani) turned at a three-quarter angle to her right, but with her face turned to her left. She is gazing at something, or someone, off to the right. In her arms she holds a small greyish animal referred to in the title as an ermine, but also called a stoat. Dressed in a fairly simple tunic, with her hair bound and plaited, Cecilia was one of a large non-aristocratic family, although she was known at court for her intellectual gifts, her poetry and her love of music.
Composition Lady with an Ermine exemplifies several techniques of High Renaissance painting. First, Leonardo’s mastery of chiaroscuro – the use of shadow to enhance the three-dimensional relief of the figure. Second, his use of sfumato to create fine and very gradual tonal changes, notably around the eyes and mouth – a technique he used extensively in the Mona Lisa. Third, X-ray and microscopic examination of the picture has revealed a preparatory drawing (delineated in charcoal) on the undersurface, a technique that Leonardo absorbed in the workshop of his teacher, Andrea del Verrocchio (1435-88). In addition, it shows that a window originally appeared on the right of the picture, but was later deleted. Laboratory analysis has also uncovered Leonardo’s fingerprints in the surface of the paint, proving that he used his fingers to blend his brushwork.
As in other Leonardo’s paintings – see, for instance, The Virgin of the Rocks (c.1484, Louvre Museum) – Lady with an Ermine contains a pyramidic structure with the sitter captured in the act of turning to her left (while the ermine turns to its right), reflecting Leonardo’s keen interest in the dynamic effects of movement.
The painting is also an excellent illustration of Leonardo’s anatomical expertise. Cecilia’s exposed right hand, for instance, is painted in great detail: each wrinkle around her knuckles, each fingernail – even the flexed tendon in her forefinger – is depicted with painstaking accuracy, as is the beauty spot on her right cheek. Almost every strand of fur around the Ermine’s right ear is individually replicated.