FOSCHI, Pierfrancesco di Jacopo
(b. 1502, Firenze, d. 1567, Firenze)

Portrait of a Lady

Oil on panel, 101 x 79 cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

The sitter, painted almost full-length, is seated on a stone plinth behind which rise up two pilasters, with what seems to be a niche in-between them. The plain architectural background in the style of the period infuses the painting with a sense of solemnity and isolation which accentuates the sitter's expression, halfway between serious and sad. With lowered eyes, she fixes her gaze on no particular spot, as if absorbed in her thoughts, perhaps inspired by the book which she is holding.

The figure is depicted in slight contrapposto, with the head turned in the opposite direction to the body, conforming with Mannerist taste. This pose, initially conceived to give naturalness and movement to the figures, was so constantly repeated that it reached a point where it became purely a convention and no longer conveyed the spontaneity which was originally intended. This was, in fact, to be the ultimate destiny of Mannerism, which by refining the figure to such an extent, left it empty of content.