Idealized Portrait of a Courtesan as Flora
Mixed technique on poplar
Inv. No. 1077
43.6 × 34.6 cm
Traditionally regarded as a portrait of Lucrezia Borgia, the scandal-ridden daughter of Pope Alexander VI, this painting actually shows an unknown woman who had herself depicted as Flora, the ancient goddess of spring. This circumstance explains the flowers in her right hand and also accounts for her fantastic costume, which – with turban, wig, and one breast exposed – would not have been appropriate for the portrait of an honourable (married) woman. Educated courtesans, on the other hand, very popular figures especially in sixteenth-century Venice, often had themselves depicted in the erotic role of Flora.