(b. 1503, Firenze, d. 1572, Firenze)

Portrait of a Lady in Green

Oil on panel, 77 x 66 cm
Royal Collection, Windsor

William Hazlitt, writing in 1823, described the colours of the costume worn by the sitter in this memorable portrait as resembling 'the leaves and flower of the water-lily, and so clear'. The drawing and modelling are equally assured in the firm delineation of the features and the gentle modulation of light. The tilt of the head and the angle of the shoulders provide a distinctive characterisation for this unknown figure. Similar attention has been given to the costume with its slashed sleeves, puff shoulders, embroidered chemise and elegant headgear. The artist has combined the simplicity of form, attention to detail and high degree of finish often associated with his work. However, it lacks the abstract qualities of Bronzino's mature portraits which transcend a feeling of reality in favour of the metaphysical.

An attribution to Bronzino has not been universally accepted and some scholars have favoured an artist from north Italy, specifically from Emilia or Lombardy. The mitigating factor in such an argument lies in the costume which is not Central Italian in style. If the portrait is by Bronzino, then it must be early in date, between the Portrait of a Lady with a Lap-dog (Frankfurt, Städelsches Kunstinstitut) or the Portrait of a Boy with a Book, dating from the early 1530s (Milan, Castello Sforzesca, Trivulzio collection), and the Portrait of a Young Man with a Lute (Florence, Uffizi) or the Portrait of Ugolino Martelli, dating from the mid-1530s (Berlin, Staatliche Museen). It was at the beginning of this decade that Bronzino worked in Pesaro for the court of Urbino (1530-2) and it is possible that he took the opportunity to travel in Emilia, to places like Bologna, Ferrara or Modena. Alternatively, north Italian fashions could have been seen in the Marches, either at Urbino itself or in Pesaro, owing to the strong dynastic connections between Italian courts.