Portrait of a Lady in Red (Francesca Salviati?), ca. 1533
You immediately feel as if someone is looking you over. Even before your eyes can immerse themselves in its details, this portrait has cast its spell on you, for both the lady and her lapdog seem to be reacting to your presence. You are no longer the viewer, but have been included in the subjects’ range of vision. This tension creates an emotional connection. At the same time, the lady sitting in an armchair placed perpendicular to the surface of the panel insists on keeping her distance. Her expensive, vibrantly red dress and precious jewellery demonstrate her high social class, while her books, rosary, lapdog and dignified pose allude to her education, piety and modesty.
The painter has further ennobled this ideal image of a woman with the clear, symmetrically triangular composition whose horizontal basis is formed by her forearm resting on the arm of the chair. The round niche, on the other hand, creates a calm backdrop to the face and upper body. Like a photographer, the artist has used the indirect light of the niche and the blouse to brighten up the subject’s face in a sensitive manner.