This frank and open, idealised portrait of a Venetian beauty is uniformly illuminated. Silky surfaces intensify her sensual charisma, with even her hair
subordinated to the overall impression of the portrait. The dominance of the
blue dress is balanced by the strong skin tone and the elaborately coiffured
blonde hair. The young woman’s gaze is directed at the observer, who is perhaps enchanted by her appearance, but the deprecatory gesture of her hand keeps him at bay. Around 1500, the depiction of beautiful women with idealised features and a gentle note of eroticism began developing into a special Venetian type, possibly stimulated by a (now lost) work by Giovanni Bellini. Giorgione and the young Titian took up the theme, and their works had wide-reaching influence, found with special intensity in the paintings of Palma Vecchio. Both the artists and their patrons were primarily interested in the connection with contemporary lyric poetry, having been influenced by the recent popularity of the Canzoniere by Petrarch (1304–1374), in which he celebrated in verse an unrealisable desire for a beautiful woman as weIl as pure and lasting love.
© Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery, Vienna 2010