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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Solving the Mystery of the Sitter in Bartolomeo Veneto’s Portrait of a Lady in a Green Dress

  • Author(s): Sizonenko, Tatiana
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Public License

This article uses the portrait date, the costume in the title, and the original seals found on the back of the picture to unveil the mystery of the sitter and to clarify the provenance of Bartolomeo Veneto’s Portrait of a Lady in a Green Dress (1530) from the Timken Museum of Art in San Diego. This portrait is the last signed work of exceptional quality and preservation by the Renaissance master. With rare exception, most of Bartolomeo’s sitters remain anonymous. This paper identifies one of Bartolomeo’s patrons and associates the portrait with an intimate circle of Isabella D’Este. The Timken portrait reveals a complex game of identity in Renaissance courts. Rulers like Isabella d’Este strategically deployed the power and agency of Roman imperial fashions to construct and project their dynastic identity and social status. Through bestowing her exquisite hairdos as gifts, the Marchesa was able to reinforce her ideals and symbolic values. Her daughter-in-laws displayed their allegiance to Isabella visually by wearing hairdresses and costume accessories modeled on her proprietary designs. In turn, Isabella’s Roman-inspired hairstyles aided her in the construction and transmission of her own feminine virtue and political aspirations.


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