CIRCLE OF LEONARDO DA VINCI (ANCHIANO, NEAR VINCI 1452-1519 AMBOISE, NEAR TOURS)
CIRCLE OF LEONARDO DA VINCI (ANCHIANO, NEAR VINCI 1452-1519 AMBOISE, NEAR TOURS)
CIRCLE OF LEONARDO DA VINCI (ANCHIANO, NEAR VINCI 1452-1519 AMBOISE, NEAR TOURS)
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CIRCLE OF LEONARDO DA VINCI (ANCHIANO, NEAR VINCI 1452-1519 AMBOISE, NEAR TOURS)

Portrait of a lady, half-length, in profile

Details
CIRCLE OF LEONARDO DA VINCI (ANCHIANO, NEAR VINCI 1452-1519 AMBOISE, NEAR TOURS)
Portrait of a lady, half-length, in profile
oil on panel
23 1⁄2 x 16 in. (59.7 x 40.6 cm.)
inscribed ? 'Ambrogio / 1515' (on the letter) and 'No. 87' (on the reverse)
Provenance
Dr. David Didier Roth (1798-1885), by whom sold as 'Leonardo da Vinci' on 15 October 1863 for 4,100 French francs to,
Baron James de Rothschild (1792-1868), Paris, by descent to his daughter,
Charlotte, Baroness Nathaniel de Rothschild (1825-1899), Paris, by descent to her grandson,
Baron Henri de Rothschild (1872-1947), Ferrières, as 'Ambrogio de Predis,' by descent in the family until sold,
Anonymous sale; Paris, Galerie Charpentier, 9 May 1952, lot 102, as 'Attributed to Ambrogio de Predis'.
Heinz Kisters, Kreuzlingen, by 1965.
[The Property of a Gentleman]; Sotheby's, London, 4 July 2018, lot 43, where acquired by the present owner.
Literature
W. Suida, Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler, XXVII, U. Thieme & B. Becker eds., Leipzig, 1933, p. 369, as 'Ambrogio de Predis'.
Exhibited
Bregenz, Künstlerhaus, Palais Thurn und Taxis, Meisterwerke der Malerei aus Privatsammlungen im Bodenseegebiet, 1 July-30 September 1965, no. 77b, as 'Ambrogio de Predis'.

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Lot Essay

Once part of the illustrious Rothschild collection at the Château de Ferrières, this portrait is a striking example of Milanese court portraiture of the late quattrocento. By the 1480s Milan had become a dominant power in the peninsula: Ludovico Maria Sforza, il Moro (1452-1508), presided over a court that was one of the most resplendent in Renaissance Italy, leaving a clear imprint on the visual culture of the era, a position consolidated when Leonardo arrived in the city in 1482, entering the household of Ludovico. Under his rule, the profile portrait format was frequently used in courtly circles, and it was favored by Ambrogio de Predis and Bernardino de’ Conti, artists who have both been proposed as authors for the present panel, and whose roles in producing images for the Sforza court is well documented. One of the duke’s most renowned commissions from the time, the Pala Sforzesca (Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan), features a profile portrait of Duchess Beatrice (1475-1497), daughter of Ercole I d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, and Eleanor of Aragon (fig. 1). The sumptuous dress and jewelry that Beatrice wears in the latter Milan panel can be compared to the sitter’s appearance here, with similar ribbons tied to the sleeve and an almost identical hair style, both elaborately and decoratively plaited, a style also seen in Leonardo’s La Belle Ferronnière (Musée du Louvre, Paris). This particular fashion of the hair being center parted and gathered in the long plait, which proved so popular at the Milanese court in the 1490s, was probably introduced by Isabella of Aragon (1470-1524), bringing a Spanish trend from Naples to the north of Italy.

The panel was purchased by Baron James de Rothschild (1792-1868), the founder of the French branch of the family, who had the magnificent Château de Ferrières built outside of Paris. When the picture appeared at auction in Paris in 1952 it was covered with a significant degree of later overpaint, since removed, that altered its appearance markedly. It was attributed in that sale to Ambrogio de Predis, a proposition that was challenged by Roberto Longhi the following year, suggesting it was instead by Bernardino de’ Conti and dating it to the 1490s, an opinion shared by Federico Zeri.

An attribution to Bernardo Zenale has been suggested by Larry Kanter (in a private communication to the owner), who notes similarities to the artist’s work circa 1500, shortly before his 1502 altarpiece made for the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception in Cantù (now Fondazione Bagatti Valsecchi; Milan, Museo Poldi Pezzoli in Milan; and Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum).

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