Portrait of a Woman, Probably Isabella d’Este
Attributed to Gian Cristoforo Romano
Italian (c. 1465–1512)
Terracotta, formerly polychromed
21 3/8 x 21 1/2 in. (54.3 x 54.6 cm)
Currently On View
This rare terracotta portrait bust probably represents Isabella d’Este, Marchioness of Mantua. The most celebrated woman of her day, Isabella d’Este (1474–1539) cultivated one of the most illustrious courts in Renaissance Italy. She was a passionate patron who invited the most renowned artists in Italy to decorate her private quarters in the Ducal Palace. The identity of the figure rests in part on its correspondence to Leonardo da Vinci’s famous drawing of Isabella d’Este in profile (Musée du Louvre, Paris). It also bears comparison with a portrait medal of Isabella by Gian Cristoforo Romano, one of the leading sculptors of his time and an accomplished courtier, singer, poet, and antiquarian, who advised Isabella. As early as 1491, she commissioned him to make a marble portrait bust of her, although no such work by him is known. Isabella was not as attractive as she would have liked, and often complained that her portraits were unflattering. In much Renaissance female portraiture, including that of Isabella, a faithful likeness was less desirable than an idealized beauty that represented the sitter’s virtue. If the Kimbell bust indeed represents Isabella, it does so in a highly flattering way, presenting an ideal, classicized “likeness” that would have pleased the most discriminating of patrons. The bust was originally painted. As with almost all such terracottas, the colors were probably removed in the nineteenth century.
Recordings for Adults
(Luigi Grassi, Florence), from about 1910–12, as “Lombard School”; Dr. Otto Lanz, Amsterdam [1865–1935] by 1931; his widow Anna Theresia Willi Lanz, Amsterdam and Lugano, Switzerland; sold to Adolf Hitler through Hans Posse in 1941; transferred to Kremsmünster and then Alt Aussee, Austria; recovered by Allied forces and taken to the Munich Central Collecting Point on June 28, 1945; repatriated June 3, 1946, to the Netherlands Art Property Foundation (Stichting Nederlands Kunstbezit), Amsterdam; (sale, Frederik Muller & Cie, Amsterdam, March 13-19, 1951, lot no. 312); purchased by Anna Gertrud Lanz Kijzer [1895-?], Amsterdam; given to her brother, Dr. Adrian Berchtold Lanz, Glion-sur-Montreux, Switzerland; purchased by the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Lugano, Switzerland (through Marco Grassi) in 1973; purchased by (Daniel Katz, London), 2002; purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 2004.