April 13, 2011

The Lady with the Ermine

Art conservators Janusz Czop, left, and Janusz Walek open a box containing the Leonardo da Vinci painting Lady with an Ermine during a press presentation at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, Tuesday, April 12, 2011.
AP Photo/Alik Keplicz.


I find Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine more beautiful and much more interesting than his Mona Lisa. The lady is  Cecilia Gallerani, (1473-1536) a  young woman who entered the court of Milan around 1490. She became the mistress of Duke Ludovico Sforza and bore him a son.  Ludovico Sforza was one of the wealthiest and most powerful princes of Renaissance Italy. He commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to paint The Last Supper. Sforza also commissioned Leonardo to paint the portrait of his mistress. At the time of the portrait, Cecilia was about seventeen. She was born into a large family and her father served for a time at the Duke's court. Cecilia was renowned for her beauty, her intellect and her poetry-wrting. At around ten she was promised to a young nobleman of the house of Visconti but the marriage was called off. Cecilia then became the mistress of the Duke but, alas, Ludovico chose to marry a girl from a nobler family, Beatrice d’Este. Duke Ludovico received the insignia of the chivalric Order of the Ermine from the King of Naples in 1488, and was nicknamed Italico Morel bianco ermellino ("Italian Moor, white ermine") because he was sort of swarthy.  The ermine became the heraldic animal of the Sforzo clan. The ermine in Cecilia’s arms represents the couple’s relationship. It is written of him that he was an “unscrupulous intriguer” Was he a weasel as well?

Here's a painting of Sforza from his family's altarpiece at the time of the relationhip.


Cecilia Gallerani lives on in posterity in the painting exhibited in the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow. The Polish Culture Ministry and a board of conservators will soon be deciding whether Leonardo da Vinci’s painting is fit to be out on a prolonged tour of Europe’s galleries. The Czartoryski Foundation, which owns the work, wants to show it at three major exhibitions – in Madrid, Berlin and London. But the plans for the painting  to leave Poland have sparked anxiety among art conservationists According to the chief conservator of the National Museum in Kraków, the Lady with an Ermine should undergo further research studies and should not travel to foreign exhibitions. Art conservationists warn that plans to transport the painting might cause damage to Poland's most precious picture.


With files from the Associated Press and www.thenews.pl

10 comments:

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello:
All of this we find exceedingly interesting. We are not at all surprised that there is a reluctance on the part of the Polish authorities to allow the painting to leave Poland to go on an international tour. This concern seems to be one commonly held in Eastern Europe and is certainly one we have encountered in Hungary. A year or so ago there was a problem, finally resolved, over an exhibition of Russian art going to London.

We do so agree, this painting is so much more appealing than the Mona Lisa, but maybe this is because the latter is so well known.

Hels said...

Good story! Do we know how Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine ended up in the Krakow Museum. Did a Polish noble family have it in their private collection for centuries before they lost their fortune during war time?

Blog Princess G said...

What a interesting story! Are you watching the Borgias, currently being shown on Bravo?

Kate Hanley said...

Great story, I loved it. I find art so fascinating because not only does the painting tell a story but the story of the painting tells another story. Hope that made sense! I also wonder how it ended up in Poland.

Mya.L said...

I've loved this painting since I was a kid - didn't even know it was a da Vinci!!!

DC said...

I have always seen this picture and admired it greatly, I did not know the story of it however, thanks for sharing

DCming

Tess Kincaid said...

Yes, I've always thought she was gorgeous. Surprising she ended up in Poland, since so much art was pillaged in WWII. Do you know how she came to be there?

The Clever Pup said...

Oh, my comment didn't take. The Czartoryskys bought the painting in Italy in 1798. I don't know where it languished before that.

Anonymous said...

Please use the word "conservator", not "conservationist". This is the proper term for professionals who conserve art and other items of cultural heritage.

The Clever Pup said...

Whatever... probably just auto-correct.