A portrait or an idealised image of female beauty?
The focus of the exhibition is the female portrait by Titian, best known as “La Bella”, now presented after the restoration carried out in the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence, performed by Patrizia Riitano under the guidance of Marco Ciatti.
“La Bella”, purchased around 1536-38 by the Duke of Urbino Francesco Maria I Della Rovere, arrived in Florence in 1631 with the rest of the dowry of Vittoria della Rovere, the betrothed of Ferdinando II de’ Medici. “La Bella” passed to Cardinal Francesco Maria in 1694 and, after his death in 1711, to Grand Duke Cosimo III. Always registered in the Pitti Palace during the eighteenth century, it was included in the Palatine Gallery from its earliest days at the end of the eighteenth century. During the Napoleonic looting of art, the painting was brought to Paris with 62 other masterpieces from the Pitti Palace.
The exhibition is enhanced by a number of outstanding loans such as the Girl in a Fur from the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna, the Portrait of Francesco Maria della Rovere and its preparatory drawing. On display there are also a number of samples of blue damask from the Bargello, as well as manuscripts and printed works from the Florence National Central Library and the State Archives of Florence.
The State Archives of Florence is the lender of the famous letter of 2 May 1536 in which Duke Francesco Maria della Rovere asks his “orator” in Venice to urge Titian to send the portrait of “that woman who has the blue dress” or, precisely, “La Bella”.