Lines and Colors art blog

Eye Candy for Today: Botticelli idealized portrait

Idealized Portrait of a Lady (Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci as Nymph), Sandro Botticelli
Idealized Portrait of a Lady (Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci as Nymph), Sandro Botticelli

Tempera on wood panel, 32×21 in (82×54 cm)

Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project; downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Städel Museum, Frankfurt. There is also an article devoted to the painting on Wikipedia.

This exquisite 15th century tempera portrait is listed as “generally accepted” to be by the famous master Sandro Botticelli. I’m no expert, but it has the feeling of the few Botticelli’s I’ve had the pleasure of seeing, and certainly appears to be at that level of mastery.

There is also a generally accepted assumption that the model for the painting was a well known Florentine noblewoman named Simonetta Vespucci, here in elaborate costume as a nymph (a spirit or minor goddess representing a place or aspect of nature).

Though the face is in profile, as was often the custom in Renaissance portraits, the shoulders are turned three quarters toward us to display the medallion she wears, recognizable as cameo known as “Nero’s Seal“, that was in the possession of Lorenzo de’ Medici at the time.

The zoomable and downloadable versions of the image are wonderfully large and allow us to see the precise but elegantly handled tempera technique up close.