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

Isabella d'Este, Duchess of Mantua

Oil on canvas, 102 x 64 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

In his Isabella d'Este, Titian combines the category of the anonymous beauty with that of the portrait. By 1536, when she saw it finished, Isabella, one of the most admired and sophisticated women of the Renaissance, was a lot older than she looks here, and Titian was specifically asked to make use of a portrait by Francia as a guide to her earlier appearance. He was clearly never expected to produce anything close to a likeness, but to render a flattering evocation of her appearance when young. Famed for her elegance, she wears a turban of her own design. Whatever the limitations of such a likeness, Titian manages to endow her with a feisty personality that evokes her wide-ranging abilities and imperious manner.

Isabella commented that Titian's portrait was "so pleasing that I doubt that at the age I am represented I could have possessed all the beauty it contains."