Ercole de’ Roberti spent the latter half of his career at the court of Ercole I d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, painting altarpieces, small devotional works, portraits, and fresco cycles for the Este residences, as well as decorative projects. Ercole de’ Roberti’s panel is one of three scenes of virtuous women that were likely painted for the duchess of Ferrara, Eleonora of Aragon. Depictions of female worthies who exemplified virtues such as chastity, fidelity, and patriotism were inspired by the writings of ancient authors, such as Valerius Maximus, and Renaissance texts, especially Boccaccio’s On Famous Women (1361–75). Portia, the wife of Marcus Junius Brutus, demonstrates her bravery and fortitude by wounding her foot with a razor the evening before the attempt to assassinate Julius Caesar. She explained that the wound was self-inflicted to confirm that she would be ready to endure death should the plan not succeed. Eleonora may have installed Ercole’s exquisitely painted works in her own suite of rooms in the Castello Vecchio of Ferrara, refurbished about 1490.


  • Title: Portia and Brutus
  • Creator: Ercole de’ Roberti
  • Creator Lifespan: c. 1456 - 1496
  • Creator Nationality: Italian
  • Date Created: c. 1486–90
  • Physical Dimensions: 19 3/16 x 13 1/2 in. (48.7 x 34.3 cm)
  • Provenance: Probably painted for Eleonora of Aragon, duchess of Ferrara [1450-1493]. John Hope Barton [1833-1876], Stapleton Park, Yorkshire, England, by 1868, as “Vanity Rebuked,” by an unknown artist. Sir Herbert Frederick Cook, 3rd baronet [1868-1939], Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey, England, 1920; by descent to his eldest son, Sir Francis Ferdinand Maurice Cook, 4th baronet [1907-1978], Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey; by descent to his widow, Dowager Lady Bridget Brenda Cook, St. Aubin, Jersey, England; purchased through (Sommerville & Simpson Ltd., London) by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1986.
  • Rights: Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas
  • External Link: www.kimbellart.org
  • Medium: Tempera, possibly oil, and gold on panel
  • Japanese: Italian
  • Century: 15th century
  • Artist Dates: (c. 1455/56–1496)

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