Portrait of an Unknown Woman (La Belle Ferroniere) (c.1490; Milan, Italy) by Leonardo da Vinci

Portrait of an Unknown Woman (La Belle Ferroniere) - Leonardo da Vinci - c.1490; Milan, Italy

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Artwork Information

TitlePortrait of an Unknown Woman (La Belle Ferroniere)
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
Datec.1490; Milan, Italy
Dimensions63 x 45 cm
Art MovementHigh Renaissance
Current LocationLouvre, Paris, France

About Portrait of an Unknown Woman (La Belle Ferroniere)

The artwork known as “Portrait of an Unknown Woman (La Belle Ferroniere)” is a celebrated painting by the eminent High Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci. Created circa 1490 in Milan, Italy, this oil on panel portrait measures 63 by 45 centimeters. The work exemplifies the portrait genre and is currently housed in the Louvre in Paris, France.

The artwork captivates with its depiction of a woman whose identity remains a mystery, lending an air of enigma to the painting that is typical of da Vinci’s portraits. The woman gazes directly at the viewer with a demure and measured expression, exuding both elegance and reserve. She stands before a dark, undefined background that throws her delicate yet strong features into sharp relief, allowing the viewer to focus entirely on her countenance and attire.

Her attire is rich and reflects the fashion of the era, with a sumptuously detailed bodice in a deep red hue accompanied by an ornate black and gold trim. The luxurious nature of her clothing suggests that she may have been a woman of status or nobility. One particular detail that stands out is the jewel-encrusted headband she wears, from which the painting derives its alternate title, “La Belle Ferroniere,” inferring a possible link to a blacksmith’s wife or perhaps simply as a stylistic identifier.

Da Vinci’s mastery of sfumato is apparent in the soft transitions between light and shadow on her skin, and chiaroscuro is used effectively to give her features a three-dimensional quality. The nearly monochromatic palette, aside from the warm reds of her gown, accentuates the subject’s serene yet contemplative presence, inviting viewers to ponder the thoughts behind her poised exterior. This artwork stands as a testament to Leonardo da Vinci’s profound ability to capture the subtleties of a human soul in paint.

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