• Florence, c. 1490
  • Tempera on wood
  • Inv. 282

Portrait of a Young Woman

Domenico Ghirlandaio

The model depicted in this panel recalls the members of the Sassetti family that the artist painted in fresco for one of the chapels of the Holy Trinity Church in Florence. She is dressed in the Florentine fashion of the era, with layers of close-fitting clothing and a neckline adorned by a coral necklace.

Ghirlandaio’s representations of women, like those of Botticelli, are subjected to an aesthetic compromise that favours idealistic stylisation and the decorative unity of the whole, in an era that witnessed the popularisation of the portrait among the bourgeois and a taste for realistic depictions of the figure. The delicate balance of form and the harmony of the chromatic combinations reveal that the artist aspired towards an ideal of order as a principle of composition. This phenomenon corresponds to a generalised trend towards humanism art.

A beautiful example of the portraits of the Quattrocento, the figure is shown in three-quarter profile against a neutral background, befitting the practise that prevailed before landscape began to be introduced as background. The figure is cut off a little below the shoulders and the face, although depicted without excessive attention to detail, reveals a search for naturalist figuration, a desire to ‘create the real’.

Count Savonelli, Rome, 1860; George Spiridon, 1860–87; Joseph Spiridon, Paris, 1887–1929; Joseph Spiridon sale, Cassirer & Helbing, Berlin, 31 May 1929, no. 29. Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian through Duveen from Arthur Julius Goldschmidt, June 1929.

H. 44 cm; W. 32 cm

Washington D. C. 1950

European Paintings from the Gulbenkian Collection, exhibition catalogue. Washington D. C.: National Gallery of Art, 1950, pp. 36–7, cat. 13.

Kecks 1998

Ronald G. Kecks, Domenico Ghirlandaio, catalogo completo. Florence: Octavo, 1998, pp. 134–5, 137.

New York 1999

Katharine Baetjer and James David Draper (eds.), 'Only the Best'. Masterpieces of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, exhibition catalogue. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999, pp. 46–7, cat. 19.

Sampaio 2009

Luísa Sampaio, Painting in the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Lisbon/Milan: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum/Skira, 2009, pp. 30–1, cat. 7.

Madrid 2010

Ghirlandaio y el Renacimiento en Florencia, exhibition catalogue. Madrid: Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2010, p. 86–7, no. 21.

Lisbon 2011

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, 2011, p. 106, cat. 81.