ROBUSTI, Marietta
(b. ca. 1554, Venezia, d. ca. 1590, Venezia)

Self-Portrait with Madrigal

c. 1578
Oil on canvas, 94 x 92 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Maria Robusti Tintoretta was the daughter and pupil of Jacopo Tintoretto. She became a portrait painter of genuine merit and painted many of the most important figures of Venice. As a result of her reputation she was invited to the court of Vienna and that of Madrid but she declined these attractive offers out of affection for her father. Her early death at the age of 30 was a terrible blow to him.

Marietta's skills in this specific type of portraiture are recorded by Raffaello Borghini (1584) and Claudio Ridolfi (1648) who stress the close relationship between the activity as a painter and musician of the young artist. The link between music and painting seems further strengthened by the statement that Marietta painted sketches of the gentlemen and ladies of Venice, entertaining them during their sittings with music and song.

On this canvas the young woman is shown in three-quarter figure, in a white dress in thick pleated fabric, where the colour and lines merge with those of the music sheet she holds in one hand, while the other brushes against the keys of a harpsichord. The depiction of the music in the foreground is extraordinarily accurate and possibly shows the part sung by the young woman, i.e. page 24, with the notes and text of the Cantus of the madrigal by Philippe Verdelot Madonna per voi ardo in the Primo Libro dei Madrigali, printed in Venice in 1533. The sidelong glance and slightly turned body seem to indicate that the portrait was painted in front of a mirror and that it is indeed a self-portrait, as generally thought.

Marietta does not appear to have received commissions for major religious paintings, and, like other women artists in this period, she worked primarily as a portrait painter. Apart from the present Self-Portrait (Corridoio Vasariano in the Galleria degli Uffizi), no work can be assigned to her with certainty.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 3 minutes):
Philippe Verdelot: Madonna per voi ardo, madrigal