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“Portrait of a Girl” by Piero del Pollaiolo

Piero del Pollaiolo - Portrait of a Woman

“Portrait of a Girl” by Piero del Pollaiolo

“Portrait of a Girl” by Piero del Pollaiolo portrays a rich Florentine girl, who was approaching her wedding age. These portraits provided public visibility to ensure a successful match with a rich and well position husband and family.

The Sumptuary laws, which were laws that attempt to restraining luxury or extravagance, allowed women to wear expensive clothes and jewels only for their marriage and the following three years.

This profile view was the tradition for the mid-1400s, as it prevented the sitter from meeting the gaze of the viewer, which was the custom to demonstrate respectability and dignity. 

The artist used a technique based on the dense accumulation of oil pigment to create thickness to the smallest details, such as the velvet of the sleeve.

Also, the jewels, the trim of the blouse, the light blue ribbon around her head, and the pin holding her refined hairstyle are all highly detailed. This portrait is a beautiful embodiment of Florentine portraiture of the early Renaissance.

Sumptuary Law

Sumptuary laws attempted to regulate excessive expenditure on clothing and luxury expenditures.

Historically, they were laws that were intended to regulate and reinforce social hierarchies and morals through restrictions, often depending upon a person’s social rank.

They made it easy to identify social status and privilege, and as such, could be used for social discrimination.

In the Late Middle Ages, sumptuary laws in medieval cities were instituted as a way for the nobility to limit the conspicuous consumption of the prosperous bourgeoisie.

If bourgeois subjects appeared to be as wealthy or wealthier than the ruling aristocracy, it could undermine the nobility’s presentation of themselves as the legitimate rulers.

In Italy, these laws, mostly aimed at female apparel and sometimes became a source of revenue for the state. The Florentine laws of 1415 restricted the luxury that could be worn by women but exempted those willing to pay an annual fee.

Piero del Pollaiolo

Piero del Pollaiuolo (1443 – 1496) was an Italian Renaissance painter from Florence. His brother was the artist Antonio del Pollaiuolo, and the two frequently worked together.

Their work shows both classical influences and an interest in human anatomy; reportedly, the brothers carried out dissections to improve their knowledge of the subject.

Portrait of a Girl

  • Title:             Portrait of a Girl
  • Artist:            Piero del Pollaiolo
  • Year:             1470
  • Medium:       tempera and oil on wood
  • Dimensions: Height: 45.5 mm (1.7 ″); Width: 32.7 mm (1.2 ″)
  • Museum:      Museo Poldi Pezzoli

Piero del Pollaiolo

  • Artist:            Piero del Pollaiolo, also known as Piero Benci
  • Born:             1443, Florence
  • Died:             1496, Rome
  • Nationality:    Italian
  • Movement:    Italian Renaissance
  • Major Works:

Poldi Pezzoli Museum – Potrait of a woman – Pollaiolo – Milan

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“What beauty is, I know not,
though it adheres to many things.”
– Albrecht Dürer

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Photo Credit: 1)Piero del Pollaiolo [Public domain]

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