(b. ca. 1490, Correggio, d. 1534, Correggio)

Portrait of a Gentlewoman

Oil on canvas, 103 x 88 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

This portrait of an unknown lady is one of the rare portraits by Correggio. Among those purported to be the subject of this portrait is the notorious poisoner Lucretia Borgia and Salome, the legendary step-daughter of Herod Antipas, among others. A better-founded but still speculative interpretation is that she is the poet Veronica Gambara (1485-1550), who ruled the principality of Correggio after the death of her husband. The laurel tree symbolizes the model's poetic gifts, and the ivy indicates her married (widowed) status. The word on the inner edge of the bowl reads (in Greek letters) "nepenthes" which means a medicine for sorrow, supporting indirectly the interpretation that the sitter is a poet.