Portrait of a Lady, half-length, in a yellow dress with green sleeves and a gold chain, resting her hand on a book in an interior, a river landscape beyond.

Paolo Zacchia il Vecchio

Family name: Ezzechia da Vezzano
(Vezzano Ligure 1490 – c. 1561 Lucca)

Portrait of a Lady, half-length, in a yellow dress with green sleeves and a gold chain, resting her hand on a book in an interior, a river landscape beyond

84.3 x 66.9 cm. (33 1/4 x 26 3/8 in.)
Oil on panel, transferred to canvas

Provenance:

Philippe II, Duc d’Orleans (1674-1723), Paris.
Duke of Roxburghe, Floors Castle, Roxburghshire, Scotland.
Henri Doetsch (1839-94), 7 New Burlington Street, London; his deceased sale, Christie’s, London, 22 June 1895, lot 111, as ‘Bacchiacca’ (34 guineas to Lesser?).
(Possibly) Lesser Adrian Lesser, London.
Galería Rembrandt, Madrid, 1977.
Spanish Private Collection; sale, Sotheby’s, London, 10 December 2015, lot 156, as ‘Ezechia da Vezzano, called Paolo Zacchia il Vecchio’, when acquired by the present owner.

Bibliography:

L. Nikolenko, Francesco Umbertini called il Bacchiacca, New York, 1966, pp. 66-67, p. 85 (illustrated), as‘Bachiacca’, on canvas.

Brown, David Alan. Virtue & Beauty. Leonardo’s Ginevra de’ Benci and Renaissance Portraits of Women. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 2001.

Borelli, Ernesto. Nel Segno di Fra Bartolomeo. Pittori del Cinquecento a Lucca. Lucca: Maria Pacini Fazzi Editore, 1984.

Borelli, Ernesto. “Orientamenti della Pittura Lucchese nel Sec. XVI.” In La Provincia di Lucca, XVI, no. 3, (July- September 1976), 20-41.

Bronzino. Art and Poet at the Court of the Medici. Edited by Carlo Falciani and Antonio Natali. Florence: Mandragora, 2010.

Castelli, Patrizia. “Le virtù delle gemme.” In L’Oreficeria nella Firenze del Quattrocento, 307-374. Florence: SPES, 1977.

Catalogue of the Highly Important Collection of Old Masters of Henry Doetsch, Esq. London: Christie, Manson and Wood Limited, 1895.

Hemsoll, David. “Beauty in Late Fifteenth-Century Florence.” In Concepts of Beauty in Renaissance Art, 66- 79. Edited by Francis Ames-Lewis and Mary Rogers. Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998.

La France, Robert G. Bachiacca: Artist of the Medici Court. Florence: Leo S. Olschki Editore, 2008.

Lanzi, Luigi. Storia Pittorica dell’Italia: dal Risorgimento delle Belle Arti fin presso al fine dal XVIII Secolo, Vol. I. Milano: Della Società Tipog. De’ Classici Italiani, 1824.

Nikolenko, Lada. Francesco Umbertini called il Bacchiacca. New York: J.J. Augustin Publisher Locust Valley, 1966.

Opere di Agnolo Firenzuola. Edited by Delmo Maestri. Turin: Unione Tipografico-Editrice Torinese, 1977.

Pope-Hennessy, John. “Zacchia il Vecchio and Lorenzo Zacchia.” In The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 72, (May, 1938), 213-223.

Tazartes, Maurizia. “Immagini negli Oratori e nelle Confraternite Lucchesi del ‘500.” In Città Italiane del ‘500 tra Riforma e Controriforma, 181-204. Lucca: Maria Pacini Fazzi Editore, 1988.

Tinagli, Paola. Women in Italian Renaissance Art: Gender, Representation and Identity. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997.

Zeri, Federico and Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings. A Catalogue of the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Florentine School. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1971.

Show More

Catalogue Entry

Ezechia da Vezzano was the most important painter in Lucca during the first half of the sixteenth century. He is also referred to as Zacchia ‘il Vecchio’ and Paolo Zacchia, as Italian eighteenth-century art historian Luigi Lanzi called him in his Storia Pittorica dell’Italia.1 At the beginning of his career, the artist travelled to Florence, where he may have studied under Ridolfo Ghirlandaio.2 Ezechia da Vezzano is known to have been active from about 1519, when he painted the Adoration of the Shepherds for the church of Sant’Agostino inPietrasanta, untill around 1561, the date of his last known work, the Ascension executed for the church of San Salvatore in Lucca.3 In this city, Zacchia constituted a microcosm of local Mannerism, devoting his artistic career to the production of religious works and portraits.

The present work is one of the finest examples of Zacchia’s activity as a portraitist. The picture shows a more than a half-length figure of a young woman in three-quarter pose wearing a yellow dress with puffed upper sleeves, a white chemise and green lower sleeves. A knotted, red sash encircles her waist, while a long gold chain with a cross pendant adorns her neck and lowers down on her bosom. The woman looks straight out of the canvas, her right hand resting on a music book, her left hand on her hip. Both hands are adorned by golden rings with precious stones, possibly two rubies and an emerald. The sitter stands against a grey wall with a window opening onto a dream-like landscape with mountains, castellated buildings by a river, trees, small human figures and two swans swimming in a pond.

Back of a photo of Ezechia da Vezzano's Portrait of a Lady in the Fototeca Zeri.

Fig. 1. Back of a photo of Ezechia da Vezzano’s Portrait of a Lady in the Fototeca Zeri.

The painting is mentioned for the first time in the 1895 sales catalogue of Henri Doetsch’s possessions, where the work is titled Portrait of a Florentine Lady and is ascribed to Bachiacca,4 a Mannerist artist working in Florence during the first half of the sixteenth century. The title and attribution were then repeated by Lada Nikolenko in the 1966 catalogue raisonné of Bachiacca’s oeuvre, where the Portrait is included among the works ascribed to the artist.5 Bachiacca’s sophisticated use of brilliant colors, simplified shapes and accurate rendering of details – all of which are demonstrated by the present work – might have suggested such an attribution. Federico Zeri was the first to propose Paolo Zacchia as the author of the present painting. An autograph annotation written by the art historian on the back of a photograph of the Portrait in the Fototeca Zeri attests a possible attribution to Zacchia (Fig. 1).6 Although never pursued by Zeri in any scholarly publication, his attribution has been universally accepted by scholarship.

Ezechia da Vezzano, Portrait of a Musician, oil on panel, 89 x 62 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Fig. 2. Ezechia da Vezzano, Portrait of a Musician, oil on panel, 89 x 62 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Ezechia da Vezzano, Portrait of a Lady, oil on panel, 77 x 55.8 cm, Musée des Beaux Arts, Lille.

Fig. 3. Ezechia da Vezzano, Portrait of a Lady, oil on panel, 77 x 55.8 cm, Musée des Beaux Arts, Lille.

Comparison with some of Zacchia’s portraits – most of which were convincingly ascribed to the painter by John Pope-Hennessy in a 1938 article7 – reinforces the attribution from a visual point of view. If one compares the Portrait of a Lady with Zacchia’s celebrated Portrait of a Musician at the Louvre (Fig. 2), close stylistic affinities emerge. The two paintings show an analogous use of chiaroscuro, with a similar disposition of shadow on the sitters’ faces and against the simple, geometrical settings behind them. The brown, oval eyes in softly shaded sockets also suggest an execution by the same hand. The Portrait of a Lady can then be more closely compared to another portrait by Zacchia, today at the Musée des Beaux Arts in Lille (Fig. 3). Although, in the latter, a dark background with a vase of flowers has replaced the airy landscape of the Portrait, the two paintings share an almost identical composition, both showing a lady in three-quarter pose set before a simplified background with a window to the left. The women depicted in Zacchia’s two portraits assume the same pose, one of their hands on a book, the other on their hip. In both paintings, the artist has paid great attention to carefully rendering the women’s ear, slightly rotating it towards the viewer, this a distinctive feature that also appears in another of Zacchia’s portaits (Fig. 4). In comparison to the Lillle painting, thePortrait’s sharper contours, greater lucidity of forms and the more elongated figure of the sitter prompt us to date the Portrait to a more mature phase of Zacchia’s career, possibly to the 1540s, when the artist also painted the Louvre portrait.8

 

Ezechia da Vezzano, Portrait of a Lady, oil on panel, transferred to canvas, 78.4 x 57.2 cm, Private Collection.

Fig. 4. Ezechia da Vezzano, Portrait of a Lady, oil on panel, transferred to canvas, 78.4 x 57.2 cm, Private Collection.

Bronzino, Portrait of a Young Man, 1530s, oil on panel, 95.6 x 74.9 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Fig. 5. Bronzino, Portrait of a Young Man, 1530s, oil on panel, 95.6 x 74.9 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

In the present work, Ezechia da Vezzano demonstrates his assimilation of the artistic innovations of his own time, while still embracing traditional devices. He shows acute awareness of the early Florentine Mannerists, primarily Pontormo and Bronzino, in a similar use of brilliant colors, purity of forms and polished surfaces. Although it is not certain that the two artists ever met, Zacchia seems to have here borrowed visual elements of Bronzino’s work. The dignified bearing of the Portrait’s sitter, along with her left hand resting on her hip, are reminiscent of those of the unknown subject of Bronzino’s Portrait of a Young Man (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Fig. 5) dating to around 1530. The imagery of the right hand on a book often recursin Bronzino’s oeuvre, as, for example, in the Portrait of Ugolino Martelli (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, Fig. 6) and the famous Portrait of Lucrezia Panciatichi (Galleria degli Uffizi, Fig. 7). These close affinities with Bronzino’sworks of the late 1530s and 1540s reinforce the location of Zacchia’s Portrait within his mature production. The Mannerist style of the Portrait is further emphasized by Zacchia’s acute linearism, particularly evident in the design of the figure and in the puffed sleeves of her dress. The luminous, dreamy landscape of the Portraitis, on the other hand, a traditional element derived from the art of the previous century. Diverging from the almost monochrome, abstract backgrounds of Pontormo and Bronzino’s portraits, that of the present work finds its precedents in fifteenth-century Florentine painting. Introduced for the first time by Filippo Lippi in the 1440s after he encountered it in Netherlandish painting, the device of the window opening onto a detailed landscape characterized Florentine portraiture for decades. Zacchia very likely encountered such a compositional device while in Florence, possibly borrowing it directly from Ridolfo Ghirlandaio. The close analogies between the Portrait’s background and that of Ghirlandaio’s works, such as the Portrait of a Gentleman (The Art Institute of Chicago, Fig. 8), provide strong evidence for such a hypothesis. In thePortrait’s landscape, Zacchia exploited the oil medium to its best, depicting an image rich in detail. The trees’foliage and the tiny human figures are meticulously rendered with single brushstrokes, while the diffusedblues of the mountains are reminiscent of Leonardo’s sfumato. With all this considered, Zacchia has created a fascinating image, where innovation and tradition coexist in perfect equilibrium.

 Fig. 6. Bronzino, Portrait of Ugolino Martelli, 1536- 37, oil on panel, 102 x 85 cm, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.

Fig. 6. Bronzino, Portrait of Ugolino Martelli, 1536- 37, oil on panel, 102 x 85 cm, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.

Bronzino, Portrait of Lucrezia Panciatichi, 1541-45, oil on panel, 102 x 83.2 cm, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

Fig. 7. Bronzino, Portrait of Lucrezia Panciatichi, 1541-45, oil on panel, 102 x 83.2 cm, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

As in most of Zacchia’s portraits, the identity of the Portrait’s sitter remains unknown. The woman’s attiresuggests that she certainly belonged to a wealthy family. Her hair is elegantly adorned by a ring of false hair, the fashionable balzo, intertwined with a black and golden ribbon. The lady’s dress follows the most updatedtrends of the time with its stylish puffed upper sleeves, which were often targeted by sumptuary laws.9 Her elevated status is reinforced by her golden jewels. Despite these elements of privilege, the overall image does not overwhelm with luxury, but appears rather sober. This could be attributed to the rapid spread of Reformation ideas and principles in Lucca since the early sixteenth-century, which encouraged the adoption of a pious life and the production of modest imagery.10 The choice of a slightly restrained appearance may be an attempt to underline the modesty of the woman portrayed, while her cross pendant establishes her piety. The small music book where she rests her right hand draws attention to her education. An interest in conveying the woman’s moral and intellectual qualities might suggest that the Portrait was commissioned on the occasion of her marriage, as was customary at the time.11 The precious stones of her rings might also reinforce such a possibility. Since the fifteenth-century, emeralds were believed to carry good luck for happiness and marital success, while rubies were the gems most often given to brides, as they were thought to promote prosperity and negate lust.12 Although less idealised than those of Bronzino’s female sitters,Zacchia has here rendered the woman’s features in accordance with canons of beauty of the time, as defined by Agnolo Firenzuola in his notorious Dialogo delle bellezze delle donne. Indeed, with her features marked by a wide forehead and brows, large almond-shaped eyes, a proportioned nose, reddish lips curving with the hint of a smile, and a round chin with a small hollow at its center, the woman in the Portrait embodiesFirenzuola’s ideas on ideal female beauty.13 Considering the long-established association between female beauty and virtue,14 the sitter’s physical traits proclaim her modesty, chastity and piety to the viewer, thus presenting her as a respectable and honorable bride.

Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, Portrait of a Gentleman, c. 1505, oil, probably with some tempera, on panel; transferred to canvas 68.2 x 49.2 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago.

Fig. 8. Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, Portrait of a Gentleman, c. 1505, oil, probably with some tempera, on panel; transferred to canvas 68.2 x 49.2 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago.

1 Luigi Lanzi, Storia Pittorica dell’Italia: dal Risorgimento delle Belle Arti fin presso al Fine dal XVIII Secolo, Vol. I, (Milano: Della Società Tipog. De’ Classici Italiani, 1824), 123.

2 Ernesto Borelli, Nel Segno di Fra Bartolomeo. Pittori del Cinquecento a Lucca, (Lucca: Maria Pacini Fazzi Editore, 1984), 18-19.

3 John Pope-Hennessy, “Zacchia il Vecchio and Lorenzo Zacchia,” in The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 72, (May, 1938), 213.

4 Catalogue of the Highly Important Collection of Old Masters of Henry Doetsch, Esq. London: Christie, Manson and Wood Limited, 1895, 32.

5 Lada Nikolenko, Francesco Umbertini called il Bacchiacca, (New York: J.J. Augustin Publisher Locust Valley, 1966), 66- 67.

6 Catalogo Fondazione Zeri, “Ezechia da Vezzano, Ritratto femminile.” Last accessed on May 12, 2018: http://catalogo.fondazionezeri.unibo.it/scheda.v2.jsp?decorator=layout_resp&apply=true&locale=it&tipo_scheda=OA &id=39237

7 Pope-Hennessy, “Zacchia il Vecchio,” 213-223.

8 Ibid., 214.

9 Robert G. La France, Bachiacca: Artist of the Medici Court, (Florence: Leo S. Olschki Editore, 2008), 227.

10 Maurizia Tazartes, “Immagini negli Oratori e nelle Confraternite Lucchesi del ‘500,” in Città Italiane del ‘500 tra Riforma e Controriforma, (Lucca: Maria Pacini Fazzi Editore, 1988), 189.

11 Joanna Woods-Marsden, “Portrait of the Lady, 1430-1520,” in David Alan Brown, Virtue & Beauty. Leonardo’s Ginevra de’ Benci and Renaissance Portraits of Women, (Washington: National Gallery of Art, 2001), 67.

12 Patrizia Castelli, “Le virtù delle gemme,” in L’Oreficeria nella Firenze del Quattrocento, (Florence: SPES, 1977), 345- 346.

13 Opere di Agnolo Firenzuola, ed. Delmo Maestri, (Turin: Unione Tipografico-Editrice Torinese, 1977), 765-779.

14 David Hemsoll, “Beauty in Late Fifteenth-Century Florence,” in Concepts of Beauty in Renaissance Art, ed. Francis Ames-Lewis and Mary Rogers, (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998), 68.

Show More

Condition:

The original panel has been thinned and laid on to a canvas support. This procedure might have been prompted by a series of large old vertical splits, one running up from the bottom edge to the right of the book to the sitter’s shoulder, another running the height of the panel from her left wrist, and a third one running down from the top edge in the upper right hand corner. The process might have led to minor losses and the spread of a light craquelure across the painting’s surface. Nevertheless, the work is in very good condition. Its original size has been preserved, and no major damages or repairs are visible.

Related Works