TIZIANO Vecellio
(b. 1490, Pieve di Cadore, d. 1576, Venezia)

La Bella

Oil on canvas, 89 x 76 cm
Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence

The female portrait, known by its complimentary epithet "La Bella", is one of the most famous paintings of the later years of Titian's artistic career, confirming his reputation as a master portrait painter and founder of the Venetian painting movement. The painting shows the three-quarter-length portrait of a young woman wearing a precious, exquisitely tailored dress in blue damask fabric with subtle gold embroidery and slashed sleeves in burgundy velvet to show the white fabric puffs of the blouse underneath, and a fur draped over her right hand with casual elegance. This nonchalance is mirrored in the way the woman's face captures the observer's attention, as its features adhere to the precise aesthetic canons of the Italian Renaissance such as a high forehead, slender eyelashes, vibrant gaze and black eyes, pale cheeks daubed with red, breast radiant with the colours of the moon and the honey-coloured hair styled in knotted braids.

Like so many of Titian's other works, it is likely that this portrait is an idealized portrait of female beauty, and not a precise depiction of any one person. This is corroborated by the Duke of Urbino, who, in a letter he wrote on May 2nd 1536, simply described it as the "lady in the blue dress". The painting gains its opulent, sensuous appeal mainly from its masterful combination of colour values, from the blue dress with red sleeves, through to the flesh tones and the golden brown, skillfully plaited hair.