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Portrait of a Lady as Flora
oil on canvas
72 x 56 cm (28 1/4 x 22 in.)

Sale, Cambi Casa d'Aste, Genoa, 30th May 2018, lot 115 (as attributed to Antonio Zanchi).

The present painting of a Lady as Flora reprises the Bella genre popular among Venetian female sitters in the 16th century. (1) Conveying an idealised sense of beauty rather than a realistic portrait, the intention was to reflect the sitter’s inner virtue. The portraits were more or less erotic according to the taste of the individual commissioning the painting.

A leading example of the Bella genre is Titian’s Flora in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence. (2) In it Flora – goddess of spring and re-birth – is depicted with long hair, and holds flowers and leaves – symbols of marital love. Beyond the Allegory however lies a portrait of a spouse to be. Unveiling one of her breasts, the sitter shows two fingers open which presages the loss of her Virginity.

Later on in 18th-century Venice and in keeping with the Bella genre, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770) would also paint his own example of a Portrait of a Lady as Flora (Sotheby’s, London, 5th July 2017, lot 37).

(1) Joséphine Le Foll, ‘Les Belles Vénitiennes’, in Raphael et son temps, p.173
(2) Gloria Fossi, Galleria degli Uffizi: Arte, Storia, Collection, Milan, 2015, p. 231

Sold for £8,750

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