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Lady with an ermine. Cecilia (Cecilia) Gallerani

Painting, 1480-th , 54.8×40.3 cm

Description of the artwork «Lady with an ermine. Cecilia (Cecilia) Gallerani»

Some (arguable?) I think that this picture is the best of all created by Leonardo da Vinci. She just not lucky enough to become as famous as the "Mona Lisa": it is found not in the Louvre, its not stolen, its loss did not write for several months on the front pages of all Newspapers.

Curiously, attributed to Leonardo da Vinci's authorship "Lady with an ermine" for a long time been in doubt as the person depicted on the canvas girls. Disputes that periodically flare up until now, when technical tools of the digital age allow you to explore the painting from a new angle.

While it is worth to dwell on the fact that the portrait depicts Cecilia (Cecilia) Gallerani, the mistress of the Duke of Milan Ludovico Sforza the mother of his son Cesare. The artist has taken care to ensure that as little detail distracts the viewer from the young and fresh beauty of the model. Da Vinci painted her in a simple dress and jewelry left in the girl only thread of black pearls. Even the slicked-down hair of Cecilia, it seems, serve exactly this purpose (this hairstyle with braid and tightly covering her face with strands of hair was styled Isabella Of Aragon called coazone). Images of model, was the innovation of Leonardo, the portraits represented for the most part, hammered profiles. And even in this unusual pose, the artist managed to emphasise the lively character of the young model, who supposedly listens to an unseen interlocutor.

Hands Gallerani holding a white animal, which is considered to be an ermine. There are several interpretations of what the animal symbolizes. Traditionally, the winter white ermine is considered a symbol of purity and innocence, this was the legend that he would rather die than to stain the white fur. According to another version, the animal serves as a hint of bond girl with Lodovico Sforza, who in 1488 was admitted to the Order of the ermine and included the animal in his arms. In addition, there is a perception that, being a big fan of puzzles and codes da Vinci with ermine encrypted on the canvas of the surname Gallerani (in ancient Greek, the whole family of mustelids was called "gale").

Milan Muse


Cecilia Gallerani was born in 1473 in a large family that could not boast of neither wealth nor nobility. The girl had six brothers, along with whom she studied languages, she was fluent in Latin, sang and played musical instruments, wrote poetry. Her education and talent combined with comely appearance and attracted the attention of Ludovico Sforza, nicknamed Il Moro, in whose service consisted of father, Gallerani. Probably Duke of Milan was the reason for breaking an engagement with a certain Cecilia Giovanni Stefano Visconti, to whom she was promised in marriage even at the age of 10 years.

Gallerani was the lover of Sforza at the age of about 16-17 years. According to eyewitnesses, the girl always accompanied the Duke, he was genuinely attached to her and settled her in his castle, providing it several rooms. Cecilia remained in the castle even after Sforza married Beatrice d'este and Lodovico sometimes secretly go to the room of his mistress, which at the time was expecting his baby. Of course, all this could not hide from the attention the legitimate wife of the Duke, Beatrice jealous of his rival and, eventually, was forced to sever ties with Cecilia. After Gallerani gave birth to a son, Cesare, Sforza gave her in marriage to the bankrupt Lodovico di Brambilla, count Bergamini, and gifted to the Palace.

Married Cecilia gave birth to four children and has become a very popular figure in Milan due to the fact that he opened one of Europe's first literary salons. The marriage did not affect entrainment woman, she not only continued to write herself, and began to collect in his house philosophers, theologians and poets, who called her his Muse. Cecilia appeared in the court of the sforzas, especially after the death of his wife, his in 1497. The former lover of the Duke, together with his new mistress, Lucrezia Crivelli supported and took care of Il Moro after a loss. Cecilia died at the age of 63, survived and Lodovico Sforza, and Leonardo da Vinci, made it famous for centuries.

Author, author!


The painting "Lady with an ermine" was subject to two detailed laboratory studies aimed, in particular, to confirm the authorship of Leonardo da Vinci. The results of the first conducted by the Warsaw scientists, was published in 1955. The second study along with the restoration was carried out in 1992 in the laboratories of the National gallery of art in Washington under the leadership of a specialist in the conservation of art objects David Bulla. The scientist was stunned by the mastery of Leonardo, he later said that a careful study of the picture gives the impression that the artist started to write your model with a skeleton, adding flesh and clothes only after you understand the mechanics of her body.

That the author of the painting "Lady with an ermine" is da Vinci, evidenced by several factors. First, there is documentary evidence that the artist was familiar with Cecilia Gallerani (moreover, they also had tender friendship) and painted her portrait. Secondly, in favor of authorship Leonardo says the color scheme of the picture, the play of light and shadow, and rotate the head model in three quarters. Third, the canvas was discovered fingerprints found in other works of the artist. And finally, according to scientists, at that time the only da Vinci could portray a person with such a stunning anatomical accuracy and detail. Just look at the hand Gallerani and see how carefully spelled out every nail and every wrinkle on the knuckles of her fingers.

Both studies confirmed that the background of the canvas was painted over a dark not by da Vinci, around the figure of Cecilia was discovered particles of grayish-blue paint under a layer of black. Polish scientists have also found that originally in the background was a depiction of the window or some other source of natural light. It is still unknown when and by whom it was painted over the background of the painting (according to some, this had a hand Eugene Delacroix) because over the years of its existence it has repeatedly renewed and restored. But some features overlapping layers of paint suggest that the black background appeared between 1830 and 1870. Definitely a beautiful picture has become a bit like a flat poster, in contrast to other works of Leonardo, famous, among other things, stunning detail of the landscape in the background.

On the basis of wood found traces of so-called "cardboard" picture from which the image was transferred to wood through tiny holes and coal dust. The tree was covered with a thin layer of primer (gesso), the underpainting was done with brown paint. In addition, the researchers determined that after finishing work on the painting the tree is not cut, evidenced by a narrow unpainted strip on all four sides.

Was there a weasel?


Numerous studies of the painting "Lady with an ermine" showed that da Vinci himself has rewritten it at least three times. In the first version of the film no ermine at the hands of Cecilia was not (here was not the blue capes on the girls shoulder, she was wearing only a red dress). In the next layer, the artist has added small animal, but he was smaller and gray. And here the question arises whether it is a stoat, and not, for example, Freda – home a ferret (they are predominantly painted in different shades of grey, and ermine in summer are reddish-brown fur). In the end, the hands Gallerani took the animal is white, and the picture began to appear everywhere as the "Lady with an ermine", even when the name of the heroine of the paintings was still for the researchers in question.

Although scientists still agreed on the identity of the woman depicted in this portrait, the species of animal continues to be questioned. The reddish tint of his eyes again, allows you to suspect that it is ferret-albino. The fact that in the middle Ages and the Early Renaissance ferrets were domesticated for hunting wild rabbits, and in some places rats and mice. Stoats are amenable to domestication worse, besides, their fate at that time were often much more sad: the snow-white winter skins of animals were used to decorate the robes of the nobles.

There is another, much less pleasant version: an animal that keeps Cecilia, is actually a "flea fur" stuffed ermine, which was used for catching pesky insects. Such accessories became fashionable in the late middle Ages and ranged from fur to fabulously expensive wool blankets stuffed with gold-plated legs and heads. However, a vegetarian and an animal lover da Vinci it would be unlikely to depict this example of taxidermy art.

The secret life of Cecilia


Several centuries, "Lady with an ermine" shrouded in mystery. Approximately 1491 painting left the Studio da Vinci and for several years kept Gallerani. In the spring of 1498, Isabella d'este asks Cecilia to send her the work of da Vinci: "Remembering that Leonardo painted a portrait of you, we ask You to be so kind and send us Your picture with that courier". Gallerani, though admitted in a response letter that has changed a lot since then, still are unable to deny the petitioner a senior. You can imagine how disastrous it turned out to be a journey for the film, because of its safety, hardly anyone cared. According to researchers from Washington, journey approximately 150 kilometers da Vinci's masterpiece, in all probability, have committed to being wrapped in cloth and leather and strapped to the saddle bags. Presumably, a month later the painting was returned to the owner, but his trail ends in three centuries.

It is difficult to imagine what was the fate of the famous portrait, and how many movements and "fix" it survived until, when in 1800 it was purchased in Italy by the Polish Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski. In all likelihood, soon after his arrival in Poland, the picture is once again restored. Then in the upper left corner reads "LA BELE FERONIERE. LEONARD DAWINCI" (Czartoryski believed that the portrait depicts the same woman in the picture "Beautiful Ferronera" although some researchers believe that this is actually Lucrezia Crivelli). During the nineteenth century "Lady with an ermine" repeatedly moved through Europe: Princess Czartoryski had to save the picture to the invading Russian army in 1830, it was then sent to Dresden and then to Paris, in the famous mansion "Hotel Lambert", where they lived Czartoryski.

In Krakow Cecilia Gallerani returned in 1882, but it misadventures have not ended. Almost immediately after the occupation of Poland by the Germans in 1939, the work fell into the hands of the Nazis and was transferred to Berlin. A year later, the owner of "Lady with an ermine" was the Governor General of Poland, Hans Frank. At the end of the Second world war the painting was discovered in his abandoned summer residence of Bavaria and returned to Poland. Now the painting "Lady with an ermine" is in Krakow the Czartoryski Museum.

Author: Eugene Sidelnikov
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Portrait

Style of art: Renaissance

Technique: Oil, Tempera

Materials: Wood

Date of creation: 1480-th

Size: 54.8×40.3 cm

Artwork in selections: 91 selections

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