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Paris Bordone (1500 - 1571)

Lot 70: - Paris Bordone , Treviso bapt 1500 -1571 Venice Portrait of a lady, traditionally believed to be of the Fugger family, standing three-quarter length within a palace interior, wearing a crimson satin dress and holding a prayer-book in her right hand


July 9, 2008
London, United Kingdom

More About this Item


oil on canvas


measurements note 111 by 82.5 cm.; 43 3/4 by 32 1/2 in.



Mentmore. Guide and inventory, Edinburgh 1883, p. 189, no. 81, (reproduced in the two-volume illustrated version of Hannah de Rothschild's Mentmore catalogue published in 1885), as hanging in the Gallery ('Three-quarters portrait of a daughter of Parmegiano. By PARIS BORDONE.');
B. Berenson, The Venetian Painters of the Renaissance, New York-London 1897, p. 87;
S. Reinach, Répertorie de peintures du Moyen Age et de la Renaissance, Paris 1905, vol. I, p. 575;
B. Berenson, The Venetian Painters of the Renaissance, New York-London 1907, p. 96;
B. Berenson, The Venetian Painters of the Renaissance, New York-London 1911, p. 95;
A. Graves, A Century of Loan Exhibitions 1813-1912, London 1913, vol. I, p. 82;
A. Venturi, Storia dell'arte italiana, vol. IX, parte III, Milan 1928, p. 1032;
B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance, Oxford 1932, p. 431;
B. Berenson, Pitture italiane del Rinascimento, Milan 1936, p. 370;
Advertisement in Connoisseur, April 1939, reproduced;
Velhagen und Klasing's Monats-helfte, 1952, vol. I, p. 13;
B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Venetian School, London 1957, vol. I, p. 47, reproduced vol. II, plate 1122;
B. Berenson, Pitture italiane del Rinascimento. La scuola veneta, London-Florence 1958, vol. I, p. 48, reproduced vol. II, plate 1122;
Collector's Opportunity, exhibition catalogue, Winston-Salem (North Carolina), Gallery of the Public Library, 22 April - 3 May 1963, pp. 122-23, reproduced;
R.L. Manning, A Loan Exhibition of Venetian Painting of the Sixteenth Century, exhibition catalogue, New York, October 1963, no. 17;
G. Canova, Paris Bordon, Venice 1964, p. 108;
M. Natale, Art vénitien en Suisse et au Liechtenstein, exhibition catalogue, Pfäffikon SZ, Seedamm-Kulturzentrum, 18 June - 27 August 1978; and Geneva, Musée d'art et d'histoire, 13 September - 5 November 1978, p. 99, no. 59, reproduced;
G. Mariani Canova, in Paris Bordon, Treviso, Palazzo dei Trecento, September - December 1984, pp. 82-83, cat. no. 19, reproduced in colour;
D. Davanzo Poli, "Abbigliamento veneto attraverso un'iconografia datata: 1517-1571", in Paris Bordon e il suo tempo, Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi (Treviso, 28 - 30 October 1985), 1987, pp. 250-52, and p. 254, footnote 55, reproduced p. 251, fig. 9;
G. Mariani Canova, "Paris Bordon: problematiche cronologiche", in Paris Bordon e il suo tempo, Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi (Treviso, 28 - 30 October 1985), 1987, p. 143, reproduced on p. 144, fig. 11;
F. Lachenal, Kunst in Venedig, exhibition catalogue, Ingelheim am Rhein, Museum-Altes-Rathaus, 26 April - 8 June 1987, pp. 50-52, cat. no. 3, reproduced;
P. Boccardo & E. Lanaro, in L'età di Rubens: dimore, committenti e collezionisti genovesi, exhibition catalogue, Genoa, Palazzo Ducale, 20 March - 11 July 2004, p. 462, cat. no. 118, reproduced in colour p. 463;
N. Penny, National Gallery Catalogues. The Sixteenth Century Italian Paintings. Vol. II. Venice 1540-1600, London 2008, p. 49, and p. 51, footnote 11.


Possibly identifiable with a portrait acquired by Gio. Filippo Spinola (1610-1660) in Augsburg and listed in an inventory of 1660 ("Un quadro mezzo ritratto di donna del Bordonone alto palmi 5 largo palmi [?] in circa compro in Augusta");
Christianus J. Nieuwenhuys;
By whom sold in 1870 for £630 to Baron Mayer Amschel de Rothschild (1818-1874), Mentmore, Buckinghamshire, where it hung in the Gallery (listed in an unpublished Mentmore inventory of circa 1876 as no. 34: 'P.BORDONE Portrait of the daughter of Parmigiano');
Thence by descent to his daughter, Hannah de Rothschild, Countess of Rosebery (1878-1890), Mentmore;
Thence by descent to her son Albert Edward Harry Mayer Archibald Primrose, 6th Earl of Rosebery (1882-1974);
His sale ('The Property of the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Rosebery, D.S.O., M.C.'), London, Christie's, 5 May 1939, lot 22, (possibly sold after the sale) to Evans;
With Rosenberg & Stiebel, New York;
Private collection, Munich, 1952;
In the collection of the present family by 1958.


This exquisite portrait of a lady by one of the most sensual Venetian painters of the Cinquecento is extraordinary for its fine execution, attention to detail in her costume, and delicate treatment of her face. The portrait's exceptional state of conservation further emphasises Paris Bordone's love of contrasting textures; from the crimson silk of her dress and translucent shawl to the gentle blush of her cheeks. The sitter has traditionally been identified as a member of the Fugger family; an important banking dynasty based in Augsburg, who had close ties with Venice and became one of Bordone's most important patrons. In his biography on the artist, Giorgio Vasari tells us that Bordone travelled to Augsburg and painted there "in casa de' Fuccheri molte opere nel loro palazzo di grandissima importanza e per valuta di tremila scudi".υ1 As has been previously pointed out, the large number of works and high price paid for them by the Fuggers underscores the importance of Bordone's Augsburg patrons. Vasari's comments are further supported by the existence of a letter, dated December 1648, sent from Aretino in Venice to Bordone in Milan in which the former remarks upon having seen various works by the latter in the house of Cristoforo Fugger described as "sì preziose gioie e sì rare", saying that they were dearer to their owner than any of his gold or silver. These have led scholars to hypothesise a possible trip to Augsburg between 1540 and 1543, and in the extensive literature on this painting it has been presumed that the portrait was executed during this sojourn. Bordone's Portrait of Thomas Stahel (Stachel), dated 1540 (Musée du Louvre, Paris)υ2 and his Portrait of Conrad Pentinger, dated 1543 (Städtische Kunstsammlungen, Augsburg), both suggest that the artist may indeed have travelled to Augsburg between 1540 and 1543 (he is not recorded in Venice until the latter year). Mauro Natale (see Literature) was the first to note the northern characteristics of the architectural features of the palatial interior in which the lady finds herself, particularly the window at left, with its panes made of bottle-glass, and the low-relief carvings visible on the wall behind her. Mariani Canova has further pointed out that although these sorts of architectural elements can be found in Italian portraits by, amongst others, Raphael and Titian, they are more northern in style and the positioning of the figure centrally in the picture space is also rather Germanic. The interior, like in many of Bordone's portraits, appears to be entirely fantastical and though he may have been inspired after a trip to Northern Europe, certain elements are to be found in other portraits by the artist: the basamento at shoulder-height, engaged columns on pedestals, and even the window itself, are all present in Bordone's Portrait of a young woman in the National Gallery, London, which has been dated to the mid-1540s.υ3 Mariani Canova considers this portrait to be amongst the most beautiful examples of Bordone's portraiture: "uno dei più begli esempi della ritrattistica del Bordon intesa a presentare la figura femminile in tutto il lustro del suo rango sociale".υ4 Unlike Titian, whose sitters were often of royal status, Bordone painted the aristocracy and members of the wealthy upper class. Here the sitter's restrained elegance, as well as her understated but luxurious surroundings, indicate that she is both wealthy and noble. Her striking costume is certainly Venetian and is almost identical to that in the National Gallery portrait: the dress is made of crimson silk with crumpled folds and the sleeves, made from the same material and embroidered with textured bands, are detachable. The style of her costume, particularly with the detail of the puffs at the top of the sleeves, is datable to the mid- to late 1540s.υ5 The costume of the two women is almost identical, although the fine translucent shawl that covers the Fugger lady seems to have been 'opened hastily and tucked negligently into the dress' in the National Gallery portrait. Indeed the Fugger lady, shown holding her prayer book rather than playing seductively with the end of the ornamental chain round her waist, might be described as the pious half-sister of the National Gallery sitter who, by contrast, is shown in a provocative state of undress. The bold pose of both sitters - with one hand on hip - might be interpreted in the National Gallery picture as strikingly seductive but in the present portrait it should be read as the pose of a woman confident and at ease in her surroundings. The hypothetical association of this portrait with that listed in Gio. Filippo Spinola's inventory of 1660 (see under provenance above) is largely based on the lady's traditional identification as a member of the Fugger family (Augsburg is the 'Augusta' to which the inventory refers).υ6 The document attests to the fact that Spinola acquired his half-length portrait by Bordone from there, and therefore lends credence to the theory. Spinola was a passionate collector: of the sixty-five paintings listed in the inventory there are nine by Grechetto, three by Rubens, and many of the Venetian school (pictures by Palma Vecchio, Veronese, Bassano and Pietro della Vecchia are all listed). Spinola owned other works by Bordone, including two further portraits (as yet unidentified) and a Bathsheba. In 1650 we know that Spinola paid 7,000 ducats for Veronese's Supper in the House of Simeon, acquiring it directly from the benedictine convent of Santi Nazario e Celso in Verona. Spinola often went in loco to make his purchases: his two other portraits by Bordone were apparently acquired in Venice and the third (presumably to be identified with this one) was purchased directly in Augsburg. Much of Spinola's wealth was inherited from his father Gio. Battista Spinola, who in turn had amassed a fortune left to him from his maternal grandfather.υ7 Gio. Filippo married Veronica di Luca Spinola and went to live near the church of San Raffaele, later moving to via Balbi, in apartments within the palazzo of Gio. Batta Balbi (now the Palazzo Reale).υ8 Baron Mayer de Rothschild acquired Bordone's portrait from Nieuwenhuys in 1870, when it was apparently described as 'A Portrait of the daughter of Francesco Mazzola, il Parmigianino' and it kept this traditional identification whilst hanging in the Gallery at Mentmore.υ9 In around 1840 Baron Mayer began buying land on which he would eventually build the Mentmore estate. He inhabited the cottage (later the aviary) before and immediately following his marriage in 1850 to Juliana Cohen, whilst the house was being built by Sir Joseph Paxton. Mentmore's first stone was laid on 31 December 1851 by their daughter Hannah, who was later to inhabit the castle and inherit the collection within (including Bordone's portrait). The building and most of its collections were completed no later than 1874, according to the 1883 Mentmore catalogue. This portrait hung in the Gallery, along with another portrait by Bordone of a 'Lady in a low white dress', and probably remained there until it was sold by Hannah's son, the 6th Earl of Rosebery, in 1939. We are grateful to Dr. Michael Hall for his assistance with the Rothschild provenance. 1. G. Vasari, Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori ed architettori, 1568, ed. 1906, vol. VII, p. 464.
2. Inv. no. 1179; for a detailed discussion of this portrait and of Bordone's possible trip to Augsburg see A.J. Martin, in Renaissance Venice and the North. Crosscurrents in the time of Dürer, Bellini and Titian, exhibition catalogue, Venice, Palazzo Grassi, 5 September 1999 - 9 January 2000, pp. 380-81, cat. no. 89, reproduced in colour.
3. See N. Penny, under Literature, pp. 46-51, cat. no. NG 674, reproduced in colour.
4. See Mariani Canova, under Literature, 1984, p. 82.
5. See Penny, op. cit., p. 46, and Davanzo Poli before him (see Literature, 1987) also suggested a date for this costume in the second half of the 1540s.
6. The inventory is bound with a legal document dated 1 September 1660 and reads: "Un quadro mezzo ritratto di donna del Bordonone alto palmi 5 largo palmi [?] in circa compro in Augusta" (cited in P. Boccardo, under Literature).
7. Gio. Battista Spinola had acquired an impressive palazzo in Sampierdarena (one of those drawn by Rubens in his Palazzi di Genova published in Antwerp in 1622) and had commissioned Andrea Ansaldo and Giovanni Carlone to decorate it. In 1624 he also acquired Antonio Doria's old residence; one of the most prestigious palazzi in the city (also drawn by Rubens for his Palazzi modern di Genova). In 1635 Gio. Battista's widow had employed Giovanni Carlone to decorate the magnificent gallery within it.
8. For further biographical information on Gio. Filippo Spinola and his father see Boccardo, in op. cit..
9. See Literature, 1883, and the Christie's 1939 catalogue under Provenance.

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