Portrait of a Lady

ca. 1530/40

Mixed technique on poplar
Inv. No. 1136

90 × 71 cm

zur  Biographie

This likeness of an unknown lady in a red dress is one of the major works of Italian Mannerist portraiture. Pontormo, who probably executed this painting under the influence of the work of his occasional collaborator, Agnolo Bronzino, uses a bold and ingenious formal device to express the social status and self-confidence of the young woman, presumably a member of one of Florence’s leading families. The observer is kept at a proper distance from the sitter by the fact that the armchair is parallel to the picture plane. Also, the lighting of the figure and the shallow niche behind her is as clever as it is simple and contributes greatly the impact of the painting. The side of the sitter’s head that is most strongly illuminated stands before the portion of the niche that lies most deeply in shadow, while the shaded side of her head coincides with the portion of the niche that is illuminated. The painting’s colouration is also impressively simple: the cool grey of the architecture causes the red of the gown to stand out all the more brightly, while that red in turn stands out against the turquoise green of the sleeve, which lies on the arm of the chair.

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