Piero del Pollaiolo - inv. 442
This famous painting, in a very good state of conservation, portraits a rich Florentine woman, probably close to her wedding. At that time for a young woman this was the moment of the highest public visibility. Actually, the sumptuary laws allowed women to wear precious clothes and jewels only for their marriage and the following three years. The profile was a classical reminiscence, but also prevented the sitter from meeting the gaze of the viewer, as decency required. The woman stands against a clear blue sky with some clouds that seem to move gently behind her, as on a screen. Typical of Piero is the technique based on dense compact oil pigment, giving thickness to the smallest details: from the velvet of the sleeve to the trim of the blouse, from the jewels to the rendering of the hair, from the light blue ribbon around the head to the pin holding the refined hairstyle. In the early 19th century, the painting was already in Milan, in the collection of the prince Alberico XII Barbiano di Belgioioso d’Este. In its inventories it was listed as the portrait of an ancestor: the wife (whose name is not specified) of Giovanni II da Barbiano, Count of Cunio. Sold in 1814 by the heirs of Alberico, some decades later the portrait reappeared in the Milanese collection of Count Giberto VI Borromeo. Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli purchased it within 1875.