Lady with an Ermine is a captivating portrait painting by Leonardo da Vinci that dates back to 1489-1491. The artwork portrays a young woman, Cecilia Gallerani, holding a white weasel (an ermine) in her arms. Da Vinci’s interest in anatomical realism is evident in the painting through the intricate details of the ermine and its fur.
This painting is also noteworthy for its use of symbolism. The ermine was considered a royal animal at the time and represented purity, innocence, and virginity. This symbolism applies to Cecilia Gallerani as well since she was Ludovico Sforza’s favorite and mistress but remained unmarried until she became pregnant with his child. Therefore, this painting represents not only Charles Gallerani but also Ludovico Sforza as a patron.
The Lady with an Ermine is one of four portraits that da Vinci painted of women during his art career, which contributes to its uniqueness and rarity in the art world. Today, it is held at the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow after being stolen during WWII and recovered later.