(b. 1483, Urbino, d. 1520, Roma)
La Fornarina (detail)1518-19
Oil on wood
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome
The picture shows a detail from the portrait known as La Fornarina. The painting is signed, in Latin, "Raphael from Urbino". The signature is engraved on the thin ribbon that the girl wears just under her left shoulder.
Described by Vasari, the Fornarina was also painted by Raphael as the famous veiled lady now in the Palazzo Pitti, as well as in numerous Raphael school paintings. The figure of the Fornarina was at the centre of the nineteenth century pseudo-historical romantic myth that grew up around the artist's personalty and the figure of his muse-lover. An identification, though not a historically provable one, has been made between Raphael's mythical lover and one Margherita Luti: recorded as the daughter of Francesco Senese, she entered the Convent of Santa Apollonia immediately following the painter's death.
The painting, datable to around 1520, the year of Raphael's death, probably remained in his studio, to be altered and sold by his student and heir Giulio Romano. The possibility that Giulio contributed to the execution of this panel has been alternately emphasized or minimalized by different critics. Recently though, a radiographic analysis has determined that the paint was applied in two successive stages. The original background, a leonardesque landscape, has been painted over with the thicket of myrtle, a plant sacred to Venus.