TitianS La Bella Portrait Of A — страница 2

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Examining portraiture of married women of the time also highlights the differences between concepts of masculine and feminine beauty in the Renaissance. Portraits such as Bronzino’s Portrait of Eleonora de Toledo (1545) highlight the correct demeanour and presentation required by married women in order to appear virtuous and hence beautiful. Eleonora, who was the wife of Cosimo de Medici, was highly regarded as the image of elegance and grace. The Duchess is shown seated, in a three-quarter length pose. Her hair is pulled back in a gold hair net decorated with pearls which gently reflect the pale luminosity of her smooth skin. Her gaze meets the viewers with calm serenity, with her arms gently resting around the shoulders of her first son. The dynastic nature of the portrait

celebrates not only her fertile feminine virtue as a bearer of Cosimo’s first son, but also her role as a Mother ensuring the propagation of a new Medici dynasty. The use of brilliant blue sky paling behind her head, lends her almost religious grandeur. Unlike La Bella, this portrait does not invite viewers to interact with the subjects. Instead Eleonora’s beauty is defined by her aloofness – she is an image of untouchable regal elegance and nobility. The most stunning feature of the portrait however, is Eleonora’s amazingly intricate and luxurious gown. Bronzino has created an image of pure opulence, with golden thread, buttons and pucker of the cream brocade and black cut velvet reproduced with extreme attention to detail. The delicate fingers of her elongated left

hand, point towards a pearl tassel decorating her jewel studded, golden belt, a subtle indication of her extreme wealth. She would have only worn such an ornate gown when attending special function at court – a time where the display of her beauty and grand affluence was of vital importance in the power game between rulers. This particular portrait was a component of a series of portraits which served as political propaganda to promote the wealth, power and status of the Medici family. In order to secure their hold on Florence and Tuscany, Cosimo and Eleonora pursued a campaign of artistic patronage to create for themselves well recognised images. As beauty was synonymous with virtue, Eleonora’s fine looks were utilised as political tool – a public display of sophisticated

grace necessary to further Cosimo’s aims. Here feminine beauty is used as a vital means of communication – becoming an essential instrument for the demonstration of status and power in Renaissance political arenas. Overall this portrait presents an image of female beauty that is an icon of power and elegance. Contrary to the sexually charged La Bella, the concept of female beauty here lies in Bronzino’s depiction of Eleonora’s vital role as a Mother, and in her royal demeanour which defines her superior position in Renaissance society. Another interesting portrait which also contributes to the definition of feminine beauty in the Renaissance is Self Portrait at the Easel (1556) by Sofonisba Anguissola. For a time when women were admired and portrayed primarily for their

physical appearance it is unusual to find a portrait illustrating a young woman austerely dressed, engaged in a process requiring such talent and dedication as portraiture. Sofonisba presents herself honestly, seemingly without elaboration or idealisation. Her hair is braided simply around her head, tied back securely with simple hair net. Her gaze is calm and direct – her large eyes meeting the viewers with unruffled composure. She is plainly dressed in a dark ascetic smock with little trim. She is shown in the process of creating a devotional image, grasping paintbrush and mahlstick, with the tools of her art in front of her. Anguissola has created for herself an image of modest loveliness, which is striking with its lack of pomp and pretension. Through her painting viewers

can admire both the portrait itself and the skill of the woman who painted it. Although she lived in such a time when it was not common for women to work as commissioned artists – her outstanding skill and creativity obviously provided the means for her to forge an artistic career. Through her art, viewers are given another insight into the definition of feminine beauty in the Renaissance, where all women were not merely objectified for their beauty – she represents a gentle, attractive woman who was also highly educated, intelligent and dedicated to her art. Overall her works contribute to the concept of a ‘beautiful woman’ being an accomplished and inspiringly talented member of Renaissance society. Masculine beauty in the Renaissance could take many forms, but