Of Leonardo Da Vinci paintings, Ginevra this is my favorite. Why? Very simple.
I can actually go see it!
Ginevra de'Benci, Oil on panel, with addition at bottom edge. 16 13/16 x 14 9/16 in. (42.7 x 37 cm). Original panel only: 15 x 14 9/16 in. (38.1 x 37 cm) by Leonardo Da Vinci.
Yes, it is behind protective glass, No, I can't photograph it with flash. Yes, there are security in the viewing room, but with this jewel, you can approach it close enough to see Leonardo's actual brush strokes. Imagine, seeing the masters actual brush strokes of a 400 year old painting!
Of the 17 known paintings that Leonardo created, the kind folks, (and very smart folks) at our National Gallery were able to purchase this painting for your viewing pleasure. The oil-on-wood portrait was permanently acquired by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. in 1967 for $5 million US paid to the Princely House of Liechtenstein, a whole lotta clams during that time.
Most people who live on the East Coast (like me) are blessed in that we can, in a single day, drive to see the Museum in Washington D.C.!
The problem is that most folks that visit that museum don't quite understand what a National Treasure we truly have in that place.
Ginevra de' Benci (Born 1457) was a lady in 15th century Florence of the aristocratic class. She was considered a pretty smart lady by her contemporaries. There are a number of written sources that attribute the piece as a Leonardo Da Vinci painting and that it is of a portrait of Ginevra de' Benci in 1474 in commemoration of her marriage to Luigi Niccolini.
The painting's imagery and the text on the reverse of the panel support what is written about it’s identification.
Behind the young lady in the portrait is a juniper tree. The juniper was also a Renaissance symbol for chastity.
The reverse of the portrait is decorated with a juniper sprig encircled by a wreath of laurel and palm and is memorialized by the phrase VIRTUTEM FORMA DECORAT ("Beauty adorns Virtue").
Ginevra is beautiful but austere; she has no hint of a smile and her gaze, though forward, seems indifferent to the viewer. The face is ghostly in its color. Her skin is painted so perfect with no blemish, or wrinkle.
Exactly how I would like to be painted. No wonder the guy was so famous! He made happy customers of his clients!
A strip from the bottom of the painting was removed in the past, presumably due to damage, and Ginevra's arms and hands were lost.
So, what have we learned about Leonardo Da Vinci paintings? I hope enough to amaze your friends and family at your next big family shin-dig, or at least when you see a copy or reference to any one of these 3 pieces, you'll know a little more about the truth of reading the code within the work!
If you do decide to visit the Gallery, go check out the Vermeer’s! They too are very famous and wonderful to see in person. Come to think of it, I've got my favorites here:
Vermeer Paintings at the National Gallery
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