provenance: Count Savonelli, Rome, 1860; George Spiridon, 1860-1887; Joseph Spiridon, Paris, 1887-1929; Joseph Spiridon sale, Cassirer & Helbing, Berlin, 31th May 1929, no. 29. Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian through Duveen from Arthur Julius Goldschmidt, in June 1929.
description: The model depicted in this panel recalls the members of the Sassetti family that the artist painted in fresco for one of the chapels of the Holy Trinity Church in Florence. She is dressed in the Florentine fashion of the era, with layers of close-fitting clothing and a neckline adorned by a coral necklace.
Ghirlandaio’s representations of women, like those of Botticelli, are subjected to an aesthetic compromise that favours idealistic stylization and the decorative unity of the whole, in an era that witnessed the popularisation of the portrait among the bourgeois and a taste for realistic depictions of the figure.
The delicate balance of form and the harmony of the chromatic combinations reveal that the artist aspired towards an ideal of order as a principle of composition. This phenomenon corresponds to a generalised trend towards humanism art.
A beautiful example of the portraits of the Quattrocento, the figure is shown in three-quarter profile against a neutral background, befitting the practise that prevailed before landscape began to be introduced as background. The figure is cut off a little below the shoulders and the face, although depicted without excessive attention to detail, reveals a search for naturalist figuration, a desire to ‘create the real’.