Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci (Piero di Cosimo)

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Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci
Piero di Cosimo - Portrait de femme dit de Simonetta Vespucci - Google Art Project.jpg
Artist Piero di Cosimo
Year c. 1490
Type Oil on panel
Dimensions 57 cm × 42 cm (22 in × 17 in)
Location Musée Condé

Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci as Cleopatra is a tempera painting on canvas (57x42 cm) by the Italian Renaissance painter Piero di Cosimo, dating from about 1480 or 1490 and kept in the Musée Condé in Chantilly, France.

Simonetta Vespucci was a Genoese noblewoman, who married Marco Vespucci of Florence at the age of either 15 or 16, and who was renowned for being the greatest beauty of her age - certainly of the city of Florence. She was admired by all of Florence as the incarnate ideal of feminine beauty, which later became a legend after her premature death in 1476 at the age of 23 years. Sandro Botticelli was inspired by her features in The Birth of Venus and Piero di Cosimo was a passionate admirer.


The subject girl is portrayed half-length figure in profile, facing left and in the background of an open landscape, arid and lush left to right. A dark cloud enhances contrast to the pure profile of the face, the complexion clear. It is traditionally identified as a portrait dressed as Cleopatra, because of the toplessness and the asp twisted neck in which she died. More recent studies, however, have also suggested that the woman symbolizes Proserpina, with the snake symbolize the hope of resurrection in paganism.[citation needed]

Surprising purity of her features and the richness of hairdressing, drawn with braids, ribbons and beads. The forehead is high, according to the fashion of the time which included a shaved hairline. The bust, according to a 15th-century style, is slightly turned towards the spectator, so as to favor the view, and is wrapped in a cloth richly embroidered and inlaid. On the parapet of the painting is an inscription that mimics carved letters, a trick already used in art since the Flemish Jan van Eyck, which reads: SIMONETTA IANUENSIS VESPUCCIA.

Doubt of subject's identity[edit]

Yet how closely this resembles the living woman is uncertain, partly because if this is indeed a rendering of her form it is a posthumous portrait created about 14 years after her death. Worth noting as well is the fact that Piero di Cosimo was only 14 years old when Simonetta Vespucci died.

The museum that currently houses this painting questions the very identity of its subject by titling it "Portrait of a woman, said to be of Simonetta Vespucci", and stating that the inscription of her name at the bottom of the painting may have been added at a later date.[1]


  1. ^ "Portrait de femme dit de Simonetta Vespucci". Musee Conde. Retrieved 11 December 2011. , once on the museum's web site, click on the "Recherche" section, then search by "Vespucci" to find details of this painting (in French).


External links[edit]