(b. 1483, Urbino, d. 1520, Roma)
Portrait of a Young Woman (La Fornarina)1518-19
Oil on wood, 85 x 60 cm
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome
Much of Raphael's energy during his last years was directed toward public activity, or at least toward commissioners who were influential in city life and life within the Papal States (he designed a villa, known as the Villa Madama, for Cardinal Giulio de' Medici). Furthermore, many critics attribute to him a series of compositions of the Holy Family and of Saints which were then executed by his followers. The famous portrait of a young woman, called La Fornarina, must also be viewed in this perspective, although it is signed, in Latin, "Raphael from Urbino". The signature is engraved on the thin ribbon that the girl wears just under her left shoulder. Tradition identifies her with Margherita Luti, a Sienese woman whom Raphael loved, the daughter of a baker from the Roman district of Santa Dorotea. The stiffness of her features and the heavy chiaroscuro effect make La Fornarina an almost certain workshop piece with the contribution of Raphael, for Raphael's own work from this period is far more delicate.
There are several old copies of this painting, the most famous in the Galleria Borghese.