Isabella d’Este (1499-1500)

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

Isabella d’Este
Black and red chalk, yellow pastel chalk on paper, 63 x 46.5 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Portrait of Isabella d’Este executed by Leonardo da Vinci during his visit to Mantua, after leaving Milan which had fallen into the hands of the French, between the last months of 1499 and the first months of 1500. The fact that this cardboard is picketed for the transfer suggests that it is the one that Leonardo had kept to make a painting that he probably never started. Moreover, there are several copies drawn from this model but no painted version. (V. Delieuvin 2012). Asked, no doubt, to glorify the marquise according to the imperial tradition of the profile […], Leonardo found, as usual, the means of subverting the tradition and the order, before doing everything possible not to execute the painting . This is how Isabella d’Este‘s profile is not a profile, but just the term of a movement. He catches Isabella in the middle of a conversation, just as she turns around. (L.Frank, 2019). The lack of care in stitching tends to demonstrate that it was late and was not done under the direction of the master. Too dense or too mechanical compared to what we observe in other works by the master. It betrays the original design, in the outline of the veil and the neck, and especially in the treatment of the lower part, where we no longer understand how the arms attach to the body. Finally, it interrupts some distance from the left and right edges, although the sheet has been slightly cut on these sides, indicating that some of the composition has not been transferred. This stitching is therefore late, probably due to the artist who used the sheet by rubbing the reverse with carbon powder to transfer the composition. The lower part of the drawing has been cut off by a few centimeters, which is regrettable because we no longer understand that the model raises her right arm to indicate a book placed on a tablet on which the left arm rests. An early copy of the portrait, kept at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, gives an idea of the missing parts. (B. Mottin, 2019). (Louvre)

See also:

• Isabella d’Este, Marchesa di Mantova (1474-1539)