Bust Portrait of a Courtesan

Bust Portrait of a Courtesan
Artist:
Giorgione (Giorgio da Castelfranco) (Italian, 1477/78-1510)
Date:
1499 - 1510  
Medium:
Oil on panel, transferred to canvas 
Dimensions:
12-1/2 x 9-3/8 in. (31.8 x 23.8 cm) 
Credit Line:
The Norton Simon Foundation 
Accession Number:
F.1965.1.028.P 
Copyright:
© The Norton Simon Foundation 
On View
Description

The subject of this intriguing painting remains unclear. The informal arrangement of the figure’s clothing, the delicate, floral head wreath and jeweled element have led to her designation as a courtesan or ‘bella,’ a genre of idealized, female busts invented by the innovative painter known as Giorgione. Her likeness should not be viewed as a portrait in the real sense because Giorgione, as well as Titian and Leonardo da Vinci, developed variations on the close-up, half-length personification of female beauty. Such sensuous portrayals were meant to be affective, and expressive of a thought or a mood. They correspond to similar preoccupations in the literary world where the celebration of female beauty in sonnets was highly fashionable.

Overall, the poetic mood, suggestion of movement, and interest in ‘morbido,’ (softness), were characteristics shared by both Giorgione and the young Titian at this moment in their careers. In fact, since the mid-19th century, some Venetian painting specialists have suggested Titian as the author. Head of a Venetian Girl, which has an illustrious pedigree, was included in the landmark “Art Treasures of Great Britain” held in Manchester, England in 1857. One of the largest exhibitions ever mounted, it greatly influenced the presentation of objects in public collections according to period and national schools.

Provenance:

Rt. Hon. James Howard Harris, 3rd Earl of Malmesbury, Stratford Place, London (sale 1 July 1876, lot 10, as Anonymous, sold for ₤9.19 to);
Waters.
William Graham, Grosvenor Place, London (sale Christie’s, London, 10 April 1886, lot 443, as Titian, probably bought-in by Agnews for the heirs);
Lady Horner, daughter of Graham (sale 30 June 1906, London, lot 124, sold for ₤147 to);
Baines.
Prince Karl Max von Lichnowsky, German Ambassador in London, Kuchelna, Hultschin, Czechoslovakia.
Sir Alexander Henderson, Buscot Park, Faringdon, Berkshire, by 1914.
[Paul Cassirer, Berlin].
Sir Alfred Moritz Mond (d. 1930), 1st Baron Melchett of Landford, Southhampton, Melchett Court, Romsey, Hampshire, by inheritance to;
Sir Henry Ludwig Mond, 2nd Baron Melchett of Landford, Southhampton, Colworth House, Sharnbrook, Bedshire.
[Kurt M. Stern, to;]
[Duveen Brothers, New York, stock no. 29643, by 1935-1937, sold 1965 to];
The Norton Simon Foundation.

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