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Portrait of Eleanor of Toledo

Painting, 1543, 59×46 cm

Description of the artwork «Portrait of Eleanor of Toledo»

Agnolo Bronzino wrote "Portrait of Eleanor of Toledo" shortly after she married the Duke Cosimo I Medici in 1539. This picture, one of the treasures of the National Gallery in Prague, is remarkable not only for the charm of the depicted woman and the famous name of the artist — the court painter of the Medici family — but also for her previous history.

The Duchess Eleonora of Toledo (1522 - 1562) is depicted at about the age of 24 years. She is wearing an expensive dress, in which she may have arrived in Florence for a wedding. Her right hand, lying on the bodice, may be a hint of pregnancy (between 1540 and 1543, she gave birth to four children, and later - four more). The brush is atypically decorated with two rings, which are visible only in this portrait and its copies. Although the viewer's eye first attracts a large engagement ring with a diamond, the second - less noticeable, on the little finger - can tell an attentive person about her life much more.

On the ring at the very edge of the portrait are two cornucopia, a handshake, and a little bird, a lapwing. Hands, as a symbol of marital fidelity and fertility, speak of a very happy marriage between Eleanor and Cosimo - a rare phenomenon in this period. Well, the lapwing, pavoncella in Italian, was a personal “impresa” (emblem) that Cosimo Medici chose for his wife after the wedding. The ring was discovered in the family tomb of the Medici in the XIX century and is now on display at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence.

Eleanor, the second daughter of the viceroy of Naples, Pedro Alvarez de Toledo, was nobler than her husband. Cosimo hoped at the expense of marriage to add aristocracy to the House of Medici and get the support of his all-powerful Spanish father-in-law. At first, the young foreign duchess did not enjoy the love of the Florentines. However, over time, she won their location, becoming the patron of many artists and building many temples. Thanks to her intelligence and leadership qualities, she also became a confidant of her husband and performed the duties of a ruler in his absence.

Cosimo and Eleanor were closely associated with Bronzino. The artist moved to the Medici court in 1533 - six years before their marriage. Among other things, he created the scenery for the festive entry of the 17-year-old future duchess to Florence, decorated her personal chapel in the Palazzo Vecchio with scenes of the Creation of the world and the images of saints, did everything possible to capture important moments in the life of his patron's wife. Bronzino painted a series of portraits of Eleanor Toledskaya, including two - with sons (and not one with daughters).

Author: Vlad Maslov
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Portrait

Style of art: Mannerism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Wood

Date of creation: 1543

Size: 59×46 cm

Artwork in selections: 5 selections