Hans Memling, a leading South Netherlandish painter of the Bruges school, painted a portrait of Tommaso Portinari and his wife Maria in c.1470. Tommaso was a branch manager of the Medici bank in Bruges and commissioned the portraits upon their marriage. Memling was known for his clever balance of verisimilitude and idealization in his portraits and had prominent figures as clients. He was one of the most prolific portraitists of his time and often used landscape backgrounds.
In Tommaso Portinari’s portrait, he is depicted with his arms folded, standing next to an ornate parapet bearing the inscription “AETATIS SVAE ANNO …” which probably indicated that he was twenty-eight years old at the time it was painted. His clothing is sumptuous but simple, leaving no doubt about his wealth but also setting him apart from more flamboyantly dressed men in other contemporary portraiture.
Maria’s portrait shows her dressed beautifully as befits her status as Tomasso’s wife . She exhibits an embodiment idealized feminine beauty both chubby cheeks curved like petals with her eyes deep-set under pleasantly arched brows offers volumes to her sincere countenance.
Today, Portinari’s portrait can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City where it remains one of Hans Memling’s most impressive masterpieces throughout Europe in part because it well-captured both Tomasso’s austere refinement and Maria’s attractive charm on canvas while showcasing Memling’s technical skill with rendering meticulous details on fabric folds and textures.