JACOMETTO VENEZIANO
(active 1472, d. 1497)

Alvise Contarini, Portrait of a Woman

1485-95
Oil on panel, 11 x 8 cm, 10 x 7 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The two small panels, showing a pair of miniature portraits, are displayed as a diptych. Behind the man and woman a complementary but not continuos background landscape can be seen. Each panel has a painted reverse, That of the man has a depiction of a roebuck, symbol of faithful love. The reverse of the woman is painted to imitate gilt bronze, but it is impossible to read the image because of surface damage.

The original construction and function of these images, the identity of the sitters, and the meaning of the imagery is the subject of debate and further analysis. According to sixteenth-century documents, the portraits represent Alvise Contarini, member of a patrician family, and a nun of San Secondo. One of the possible explanations could be that the portraits represent a couple, with a posthumous image of the husband, and a depiction of the widow.