Portrait of a Woman inspired by Lucretia

Lorenzo Lottoabout 1530-2

The National Gallery, London

The National Gallery, London
London, United Kingdom

The woman who leans to the side has not been conclusively identified. Dressed in an elaborate and softly painted costume of gleaming green and orange, she directs attention to a drawing held in her left hand. This shows her Roman namesake, Lucretia, about to stab herself after she had been raped by the son of King Tarquin.

The transparency of the paint reveals that Lotto originally depicted Lucretia in colour, not as a monochrome drawing. The portrait, while displaying the beauty of the sitter, also proclaims her virtue. The message is underlined by the Latin inscription on the paper on the table, taken from the Roman historian Livy: 'After Lucretia's example let no violated woman live'.


  • Title: Portrait of a Woman inspired by Lucretia
  • Creator: Lorenzo Lotto
  • Date Created: about 1530-2
  • Physical Dimensions: 96.5 x 110.6 cm
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  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • School: Italian
  • More Info: Explore the National Gallery’s paintings online
  • Inventory number: NG4256
  • Artist Dates: about 1480 - 1556/7
  • Artist Biography: Lotto was one of the leading Venetian-trained painters of the earlier 16th century. He painted portraits and religious works exclusively. His early works are strongly influenced by Giovanni Bellini. Lotto was active in various places in Italy and absorbed a wide range of other influences, from Lombard realism to Raphael. He was deeply religious and his late paintings become intensely spiritual. Unable to compete with Titian, Lotto worked mainly outside Venice. He is recorded at Treviso in 1503, then in the Marches, and in Rome, probably in 1508. From 1513 to 1525 he resided mainly at Bergamo in Lombardy, where he painted several major altarpieces. A period in Venice from 1526, with long absences, was followed by his retirement to a religious establishment at Loreto in 1552. Lotto's later paintings are recorded in an account book and diary which he kept from 1538. His works are characterised by the use of deeply saturated colours, bold use of shadow, and a surprising expressive range, from the nearly caricatural to the lyrical. He is one of the most individualistic of the great Italian painters.
  • Acquisition Credit: Bought with contributions from the Benson family and The Art Fund, 1927.

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