This unidentified woman wears an elegant, colorful dress of a type that was the height of Florentine fashion around 1540. Her costume and music book indicate her cultured, patrician background; she may have been a member of the Frescobaldi, a powerful Florentine banking family that once owned the painting.
The surprising juxtaposition of the bright green of the tablecloth alongside the sitter’s pink dress, and the polished, sculptural treatment of flesh tones are characteristics associated with Florentine painting of the early sixteenth century. The artist here shows off his ability to represent intricate embroidery and textures, such as the fur trim of the sitter’s sleeves and patterns on her dress. According to biographer Giorgio Vasari (1511 – 1574), Bachiacca was famous for his accurate illustrations of birds, examples of which appear here on the border of the tablecloth—they can be identified from left to right as a great or lesser grey shrike, a blue jay, a wren and a yellowhammer. The same birds appear in the borders of tapestries designed by Bachiacca, as well as in the fragmentary remains of some of his murals in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. All of these details reveal the artist’s many talents: Bachiacca and his younger brother in fact worked across many media, and were producers of a variety of luxury items for the Medici court, including tapestries, embroidery design, and zoological illustrations. The melody on the sheet held by the woman is unintelligible; the artist, who is not known to have read music, deliberately obscures it with the sitter’s hand. Bachiacca derived his ambiguous space, juxtaposition of dissonant colors, and polished, sculptural treatment of flesh from Agnolo Bronzino's contemporary portraits of members of the Medici court.