(b. 1445, Siena, d. 1500, Siena)

Portrait of a Lady

Tempera on panel, 47 x 31 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

Unlike other Italian cities such as Florence and Mantua, there are relatively few surviving examples of fifteenth-century portraiture in Siena - a genre that was becoming popular elsewhere. The painting of a young woman, now in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, is one that does survive. It is still in a frame that is probably original. The identity of the sitter is unknown but the treatment of the subject is typical of portraits of young women at that date. Adopting a convention derived from Flemish portraiture, it shows her head and shoulders as if from relatively close quarters. Her physical proximity is enhanced by the distant view of a lake or river in the background and the feathery trees that frame her head. The viewer is thus encouraged to examine the features of the young woman in some detail and enjoy the texture and colour of her abundant golden hair and pale skin, the embroidery of her gown and the ropes of pearls and gems round her neck.

The inscription on the lower edge of the painting where the letters OP and NER appear - is interpreted as an abbreviation of 'OPUS NEROCCIO' (the work of Neroccio). The Latin inscription is a testimony to the sitter's beauty.

Reading the two letters in the lower left corner as AP (instead of OP) some critics assume that the sitter is Alessandra Piccolomini, the grandniece of Pope Pius II, AP being her initials.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.