(b. 1571, Caravaggio, d. 1610, Porto Ercole)

Portrait of a Courtesan

c. 1598
Oil on canvas, 66 x 53 cm
Formerly Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum, Berlin

According to tradition the painting represents a courtesan, Phyllis (Fillida). The painting was destroyed in the Second World War.

A young woman, holding a bunch of flowers in front of her breast, appears against a dark neutral background. Her intense eyes are looking almost straight at the viewer, in dramatic lighting. Although the woman depicted is more likely to have been one of the artist's model than a lady from an upper-class home, the painting soon found a place alongside the Berlin Cupid, and the first version of St Matthew in the magnificent Giustiniani collection in Rome.