5 Lavinia Fontana (1552-1614)  Portrait of a Noblewoman

This is simply Portrait of a Noblewoman. It’s at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington. ‘Recent scholarship has established that this painting of an unidentified, young Bolognese noblewoman is almost certainly her marriage portrait. Studies of account books and family diaries from this period show that the clothes and gems depicted here correspond precisely to the items typical of a high-born bride’s trousseau. Additionally, 16th-century Bolognese brides wore red dresses, and the dog represents marital fidelity. Suspended from the woman’s belt is a curious item mentioned in numerous family records of that time. It is the pelt of a marten—a slender, mink-like creature—whose head and paws are elaborately decorated with jewels. This adornment serves as an additional symbol of the bride’s wealth.’

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