European Art: 14th-16th Centuries

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Portrait of a Young Noblewoman, 1593

Alonzo Sánchez Coello

Spanish, 1531/2-1588
Oil on canvas
48-3/4 x 39-3/4 in. (123.8 x 101.0 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation, from the Estate of Jennifer Jones Simon
M.2010.1.176.P
© 2012 Norton Simon Art Foundation

Not on view

For nearly three decades, Alonzo Sánchez Coello (Spanish, 1531–1588) produced elegant portraits that reflected the sobriety of court life during the reign of Philip II. His training began in Portugal, but it was in Flanders that his exceptional artistic abilities were refined. There, he copied paintings from the royal collection by artists such as Titian and was a pupil of Anthonis Mor, painter to the Spanish court at Brussels. Called to Madrid in 1559, Sánchez Coello enjoyed considerable fame and financial success as one of the country’s first great portrait painters.

Sánchez Coello’s lasting influence on contemporary Spanish artists can be seen in this three-quarter length portrait of a noblewoman made by his studio a few years after his death. The inscription on the bottom left of the painting indicates that the young woman, who has yet to be identified, was fourteen years of age when this portrait was executed. Her extravagant garments, intricate lace ruff and fanciful hairdo with interspersed flowers add to her radiance. Although she clasps her long necklace with the right hand as a sign of material wealth, the other is placed firmly on a bible to underscore her modesty and religious virtue.

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