A Young Woman Holding a Mirror with Her Servant (A Bella)
(Paris Bordone)


Although the picture is not signed and there is no certain record of it in the sixteenth century, it is entirely characteristic of Paris Bordon both in style and subject – indeed, it may be regarded as one of the finest of his many treatments of the theme of the Bella, or beautiful woman. When it was in the collection of Duke Litta in Milan at the beginning of the nineteenth century it bore an attribution to Titian, but it was recorded as by Bordon by the first Director of the National Gallery, Sir Charles Eastlake, in 1855 and by his expert agent Otto Mündler in 1856, [wpanchor id=”[i]”] [i] and this attribution has not since been doubted. In 1985 a drawing of two arms in the Rijksprentenkabinet, Amsterdam (no. 1953: 406) (fig. 2), which already carried a convincing attribution to Bordon, was recognised by Bert Meijer as preparatory for the main figure and, as noted by the same scholar, an inscription on the same sheet, reading ‘per la testa con la masara vechia’ (for the head with the old maidservant), is in the painter’s own handwriting.[ii] Both painting and drawing are catalogued as autograph in the recent monograph on Bordon by Andrea Donati.[iii]


Paris Bordon was a major figure in Venetian Cinquecento painting, with his own highly distinctive artistic personality.[iv] Born in Treviso, he came to Venice as a child and received his artistic education under Titian. During his earlier career, Paris practised above all as a painter of religious subjects, specialising in representations of the Virgin and Child informally seated with saints in a landscape. His earliest altarpieces, datable to the mid-1520s, were painted for the Venetian terraferma towns of Noale (the St George and the Dragon in the Pinacoteca Vaticana), Crema (the Manfron altarpiece in the Accademia Tadini, Lovere) and Belluno (the Virgin and Child with Saints in the Muzeum Narodowe, Warsaw). The climax of this earlier Titianesque period was reached with the large-scale narrative canvas of the Fisherman delivering the Ring (Venice, Accademia), painted for the Scuola di San Marco in Venice, and datable on external evidence to 1534-1535. But Bordon clearly also sought to compete with his former master in seeking patrons well beyond the confines of Venice and the Venetian mainland, in courtly circles in Northern Italy and across the Alps. According to Giorgio Vasari, he went to the court of Francis I of France at Fontainebleau in 1538, where he painted a Venus and Cupid for the bedchamber of the Duc de Guise and a Jupiter and Io for his brother, the Cardinal of Lorraine.[v] Vasari implies that this success resulted in further foreign commissions, many of them similarly involving mythological subjects, from important patrons such as the King of Poland, the Fugger family of Augsburg, Ottaviano Grimaldi of Genoa, and Carlo da Rho of Milan. There is good circumstantial evidence to date the painter’s stay in Milan and the works for Carlo da Rho, including the Mars and Venus captured by Vulcan (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin), to 1548-1551 and these show that by this date the painter had achieved a highly original fusion between Venetian colore (colour, but also texture and brushwork) and central Italian disegno (emphasis on clarity of drawing and sculptural form, often involving a Mannerist planarity of composition).  Throughout his long career Bordon also made a speciality of Belle, or erotic images of beautiful young women in a portrait-like format, many of them probably painted for an international courtly clientele as well as for members of the Venetian nobility.


While Bordon’s distinctive personal style presents few problems of attribution, his chronology remains difficult to plot precisely, especially during the central period of his career from the mid-1530s to c. 1560. Crucial, however, to understanding his stylistic development was the identification by Giordana Mariani Canova in 1961 of the Jupiter and Io for the Cardinal of Lorraine with the picture now in the Konstmuseum, Göteborg (fig. 3), together with her argument that since for stylistic reasons this picture cannot date from as early as 1538 – the date given by Vasari for the French trip — Bordon must have travelled to France twenty years later, during the brief reign of Francis II (1559-1560), when a different generation of Guise brothers, again a duke and a cardinal, were dominant at the French Court.[vi] Over the past few decades the problem of the date of the French trip has continued to divide scholarly opinion, but there now seems to be a growing consensus that Canova was correct and that the highly Mannerist Göteborg picture – together with the stylistically very similar Daphnis and Chloe in the National Gallery, London (fig. 4) – are late works, and illustrate the self-consciously refined and artificial style that Bordon practised during the final ten or fifteen years of his career. These mythologies are, in fact, stylistically consistent with late, documented works from Treviso such as the altarpieces from San Paolo of 1557-1558 (Brera, Milan) and Santa Maria Mater Domini (Museo Civico, Treviso). Compared with his works of the 1530s and 40s they show a further schematisation and hardening of form and a further simplification of effects of light and texture.


Roger Rearick, who believed in Vasari’s date of 1538 for the trip to France, saw the Amsterdam drawing – and implicitly also therefore the present Young Woman with a Mirror – as a late work.[vii] So did the anonymous compiler of the entry in the sale catalogue at Dorotheum, Vienna, in October, 2014, who, while following the later dating of the French trip (1559-61), nevertheless saw the present work as stylistically close to the Göteborg Jupiter and Io.[viii] Much more convincing however is the considerably earlier dating of the present picture by Donati to c. 1537.[ix] Donati does not give any reasons for his suggestion, but while the Young Woman certainly cannot be placed in the painter’s early, most Titianesque phase before c. 1535, nor does it exhibit the convoluted artifice that Bordon had developed by the mid- to late-1540s, as already seen in his works for Carlo da Rho and, to an even more exaggerated extent, by the late 1550s. A dating to c. 1537-40 would place the present picture close to the signed Virgin and Child with Saints in the parish church of Taibon Agordino (province of Belluno) of which there exists a weak but unmistakable adaptation dated 1540, and indeed the figure of the Virgin is virtually the twin sister of the young woman. The present work is also stylistically consistent with another altarpiece, the Virgin and Child with Saints painted for the Cathedral in Bari (now Pinacoteca Comunale), which may likewise be described as pre-Mannerist, the altar of which was conceded to its patron in 1536. Another painting datable to about the same time is the Holy Family with St John the Baptist (formerly at Bridgewater House, present whereabouts unknown); certainly this work must precede the Rest on the Flight into Egypt in the Scottish National Gallery, in which the pose of the Virgin is identical, but the handling harder and less naturalistic, and already close to the paintings for Carlo da Rho. Finally, the style of the Young Woman may be regarded as in perfect accord with the Portrait of Thomas Stachel of 1540 in the Louvre (fig. 5), one of the very few of Bordon’s portraits to carry a date, and which includes a very similar green curtain slung diagonally behind the figure.[x]


If the dating of Paris Bordon’s paintings is frequently problematic and controversial, scarcely less so can be the interpretation of his iconography. In the present picture a beautiful young woman is shown in a state of undress, with her right breast exposed and a plait of her hair hanging behind her neck. She holds a comb in her left hand and with her right she seems to adjust a mirror held up for her by her maidservant. Behind the two figures, as well as the green curtain, is the base of a monumental column. These accessories, as in the Stachel, are usually associated with portraiture, but can this young woman be meant as a portrait of a real person? Is she perhaps a courtesan? The comb, the mirror and the déshabille all suggest that she is in the act of getting dressed, so does the painting perhaps represent a scene from everyday life in Renaissance Venice? If not, does the young woman – whose costume seems meant to be classical and timeless rather than contemporary – represent a figure from classical mythology or perhaps from the Old Testament? Or is the scene, as was implied by the title of Vanitas used by Rearick and before him by Józef Grabski,[xi]meant to carry an allegorical import? Does it perhaps refer to the transience of female beauty? Or, alternatively, to the combined sensuousness and chastity of an ideal bride?


Over the past twenty or thirty years art historians have been very active in investigating the Bella in early sixteenth-century Venetian painting and in attempting to interpret the intended meaning(s) of this category of image.[xii] This intensive research has often resulted in sharply polarised readings both of individual works and of the type in general. For some scholars these paintings celebrate not only the physical beauty of women, but also the quintessentially feminine virtue of chastity and they are to be seen as the visual counterparts of the ideal, unattainable mistress or beloved addressed by poets. For other scholars, on the contrary, Belle are courtesans, or even common prostitutes, who display themselves immodestly and whose beauty is available for purchase. Interpreted in this way, such images might contain coded references to the evils of unashamed voluptuousness, while at the same time providing the male viewer with a certain titillation. A third, middle line of interpretation is to see these paintings as representations of brides, who combine the sensuous allure demanded of them by their husbands with an appropriate marital virtue. Strong contemporary evidence has been cited in favour of all of these approaches; yet it is now increasingly realised that no single one of them can be convincingly applied to every image of a Bella, and that part of the attraction for the type, to painters and patrons alike, was its adaptability to different possible meanings. Thus while the purpose of some Belle might be to extol female purity, that of others might be frankly lascivious. Or the meaning might be open-ended and deliberately enigmatic, and part of the fascination of the picture might be to leave the viewer guessing. In the latter case the same viewer might even change his reaction over time, according to his changing marital circumstances. And, finally, different painters were likely to explore different potentialities of the type, according to their own differing talents and temperaments.[xiii]


Many of the elements of the Young Woman had already been formulated in the first two decades of the century by Bordon’s elders and teachers, notably Giorgione, Titian and Palma Vecchio. As is generally recognised, Giorgione’s Laura of 1506 (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) (fig. 6) was a key work in the early development of the Bella as a type and, with its three-quarter pose and the exposure of the right breast (while the left remains decorously covered), Bordon may have been thinking of this work in particular. Certainly, when giving autobiographical details to Vasari in 1566, the elderly painter laid stress on the importance of Giorgione’s example when he was a young man;[xiv]and Giorgione was also responsible for introducing one or more additional figures into his half-lengths as a way of introducing an element of dramatic interaction. In the case of the Laura, the motif of the single bared breast has sometimes been interpreted allegorically, as a reference to the ideal combination of virtue and voluptuousness in a bride.[xv] It is more difficult, however, to infer any such bridal allusion from Bordon’s picture, especially in the absence of any obviously emblematic motif such as the evergreen laurel.


An even more significant source of inspiration for the present Young Woman is likely to have been Titian’s Young Woman with a Mirror of c. 1514-15 in the Louvre (fig. 7). As in Bordon’s picture, a beautiful young woman in a state of undress is seen looking into a small rectangular mirror held up for her by an ancillary figure – in this case a man. Like Giorgione’s Laura, Titian’s magnificently sensuous figure has been interpreted variously as a courtesan and as an ideal bride. A central element in both contradictory interpretations is the motif of the mirror, here further emphasised by the second large circular convex mirror. Mirrors have many different meanings in western art, none of which are unambiguously relevant in the present context. According to the ancient Greek writer Philostratus the Elder, a mirror was an attribute of Venus, goddess of love, and in medieval art this motif was frequently used to connote the feminine luxury and vanity associated with the goddess. It was also used as a memento mori, to remind young women that their beauty was transient and would soon wither and die.[xvi] This mediæval tradition may be (but is not necessarily) still relevant for interpreting Giovani Bellini’s Woman with a Mirror in his little allegorical panel of c. 1490 in the Accademia, Venice, but the entirely positive, life-affirming mood of Titian’s picture suggests that for him – and probably for Bordon too – mirrors no longer carried negative connotations.[xvii] Another interpretation that has been advanced in this connection is that of the paragone – or comparison between the sister arts of painting, sculpture and poetry.[xviii] By showing the young woman from behind through her reflection in the mirror, Titian may have been consciously imitating the art of sculpture, which can show the same figure from different angles. In Bordon’s painting however, no reflection of the young woman is visible, and the mirror may be included – like the comb, or like the perfume jar in Titian’s painting – simply as an accoutrement of feminine toilette. In further contrast to the Titian, in which the young woman is shown in contemporary dress, is Bordon’s use of a timeless dress, perhaps meant as a classical chiton. But in this respect he may have been looking at another of Titian’s gallery of Belle painted in the second decade, the celebrated Flora of c. 1517 in the Uffizi.


An even more prolific painter of Belle than Titian was Palma Vecchio. Palma was also important as a predecessor of Bordon in making his figures more blatantly sensual, in contrast to Titian’s more subtle and poetic approach. Like Titian, Palma followed Giorgione’s lead in introducing ancillary figures for the sake of added dramatic effect and there is evidence that Palma anticipated Bordon’s Young Woman in making the principal figure’s companion female. This is attested by the account of the Venetian connoisseur Marcantonio Michiel in about 1530 of the collection of the wealthy merchant collector Andrea Odoni, in which he records ‘El quadro delle due meze figure de una giovane e una vechia de driedo a oglio, fu de man de Iac.o palma’ (The oil painting of two figures in half length, one a young woman and the other an old woman behind her, by Jacopo Palma.) This picture may or may not correspond to one formerly in the San Diego Museum of Art, de-accessioned in 1990 (fig. 8); this appears to be by a follower rather than by Palma himself);[xix] in any case, Odoni’s picture certainly preceded the present one by Bordon. Part of the intended expressive effect of both paintings would have been to create a contrast between young beauty and old age, and in the case of the Bordon this is further emphasised by the contrast between the pink and white flesh of the principal figure, and the leathery, sunburnt face of her companion. Advocates of the courtesan interpretation of Belle customarily interpret such older women as procuresses, but in the present case it is worth noting that in his inscription on the preparatory drawing, Bordon simply refers to her as a ‘masara’ (maidservant).


Yet if Bordon was indebted to Giorgione, Titian and Palma Vecchio in his formulation of the half- or three-quarter length Bella, he was himself to become one of its leading practitioners and over several decades he produced numerous variations on the theme. These range from single images of a fashionably dressed, beautiful young woman, many (but not necessarily all) of whom may be recognised as portraits of real people, single images of anonymous beauties, often in a state of alluring undress and often with accessories or attributes that appear to be symbolical, single images of female figures from classical mythology and images in which the principal beauty is accompanied by one or more other figures, male and/or female to images in which both or all three of these figures have become mythological. (An example of the last is the Venus, Mars and Flora in Vienna (fig. 9), for which – as pointed out by Rearick – he reused the preparatory drawing for the present picture for Venus’s left arm).[xx] The majority of these works are datable to the 1540s and 1550s, and apparently relatively few predate the present Young Woman, but among its most important predecessors by the painter is the so-called Lovers in the Brera, Milan, of about 1525. Here, despite the archaic device of the foreground parapet, which cuts off the figures at thigh length, Bordon has already added two male figures to the central female. As well as turning a static image into an event, this allows for, as in the present Young Woman, a close juxtaposition of contrasting heads – in this case a male and a nubile female, setting up a strong erotic tension between the two. As with most Belle, the painting has been variously interpreted, but if, as has been argued,[xxi]it depicts an exchange of marital gifts in the presence of a witness, all three heads are likely to be portraits of particular individuals. Equally difficult to decide is whether two other pictures, datable to before 1540 on account of their fashionable costumes, the single images of beauties respectively in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, and in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (fig. 10), depict real or ideal women.[xxii] It is probable, however, that while the former is a portrait the latter is not, because although her bodice already covers her ample bosom, her arms are still bare; and, as in our Young Woman, she is still engaged in her morning toilette and is admiring her reflection in a small mirror.


Of the Belle by Bordon that probably immediately post-date the present picture, three are of particular relevance. One is a picture formerly at Althorp (fig. 11), which in its iconography is even closer to Titian’s Young Woman with a Mirror and, like it, shows the woman looking at herself in a mirror held up by a male admirer. Compared with our picture the scene is more calculatedly voyeuristic, since her contemporary costume is loosened to display both breasts and the extensive display of accessories is more evocative of the intimacy of a boudoir. A picture at Hearst Castle at San Simeon shows a figure very similar to ours, likewise clad in a timeless gown that falls invitingly open at the front, but in this case she is clearly identifiable as Venus herself since she is accompanied by the winged Cupid and has taken charge of his bow and quiver of arrows. Finally, a painting in the Scottish National Gallery (fig. 12), perhaps not quite accurately entitled Venetian Women at their Toilet, may be seen in many ways as an expanded version of our Young Woman. Here too a bronzed and turbaned maidservant holds up a mirror towards the blonde, pink and white beauty at the centre with her breasts exposed, but now the format of the picture has been changed from vertical to horizontal to accommodate a second beauty, whose gaze outward at the spectator seems to invite him in.[xxiii] The more planar composition of the Edinburgh picture, the harder handling with glistening highlights, and the more heroic proportions of the principal figure, all point to a somewhat later date, perhaps close to the Da Rho paintings of 1548-51.


All these comparisons with other Belle, both by Bordon and his predecessors, suggest that, unlike some of them, it is not a portrait of a particular person, nor is it a generic courtesan and nor does it seem to contain any deeper intellectual or moralising content. It carries a strong erotic charge – all the more since the principal figure has an appealingly gentle beauty that contrasts with the brassiness of so many of Bordon’s women – yet the iconography remains rather unspecific. In this respect it would have been calculated to meet the different marital conditions and sexual fantasies of a range of potential male viewers; and it is accordingly possible that it was painted not on commission but speculatively. There is clear evidence from the posthumous inventory of the contents of Palma Vecchio’s workshop that at least some of his Belle were painted for open sale[xxiv] and Bordon too may well have realised that he was onto a winning formula for which there was a wide market. Further evidence of this is the fact that he apparently made more than one version of the present composition, as is shown by a drawing in the Cabinet des Dessins in the Louvre after a lost painting (fig. 13); without any indication of attribution) that probably belonged to the Venetian nobleman Giovanni Grimani of San Boldo (1590-1643).[xxv] The composition of this lost painting was near-identical to that of the present work, but a few small differences – the inclusion of a table with a perfume jar, the reflection of the face of the principal figure in the mirror, and above all, the fact that it was represented in reverse – make it clear that this was not the very same picture. At this relatively early stage of his career it is perhaps most likely that Bordon had a Venetian customer in mind for such productions – someone like Andrea Odoni, who, as has been mentioned, owned a Palma with a very similar subject.  But later, with the expansion of his international contacts, he may well have offered pre-existing Belle to foreign patrons, for example the ‘donna lascivissima’ (most lascivious woman) that Vasari said that Bordon sent the Genoese nobleman Ottaviano Grimaldi could have been one of these.[xxvi] It is also possible that already a decade before his work for Carlo da Rho the painter had made contact with patrons in Milan.


A good reason for thinking that the Young Woman may have been destined from the beginning for a Milanese patron is that the earliest known reference to it occurs in the posthumous inventory of the collection of the Milanese nobleman Pirro I Visconti Borromeo (1560-1604). This lists ‘un quadro di due donne una de le quali si specchia ed il pettine in mano’ (a picture of two women, one of whom looks at herself in a mirror and holds a comb) in his magnificent villa at Lainate, ten miles north-west of Milan, and although no attribution is given it is clear from the later history of the collection that this is identical with our picture.[xxvii] Among the other important works listed in the same inventory were Correggio’s Agony in the Garden (Apsley House, London), Bronzino’s Apollo and Marsyas (then thought also to be by Correggio), Lavinia Fontana’s Venus and Cupid, and probably also Leonardo’s so-called Madonna Litta (all three of which were sold to Tsar Alexander II of Russia in 1864 and remain in the Hermitage, St Petersburg). It is striking that the paintings in the collection, which was formed in the 1580s, were predominantly Lombard or Emilian, and that apart from the Bordon none was Venetian. In other words, it is likely that Visconti Borromeo inherited or acquired it locally, and not from Venice.


During the course of the seventeenth century the Visconti Borromeo collection was moved to the family palace in Milan and, in 1750, the collection together with the palace were inherited by the Litta family. In 1813 the Young Woman was recorded, accompanied by an engraving by Gaetano Zancon (fig. 14),[xxviii]in the collection of Antonio Litta, Visconti Aresi (1748-1820), who, three years earlier, had been created a duke of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy. It was still at Palazzo Litta in Milan in 1855/56, when it was seen, still in the company of the Leonardo and the Bronzino, by Eastlake and Mündler. In his diary Eastlake described the present picture as ‘a Paris Bordon – a young woman at her toilet – good specimen’, and Mündler too noted its fine quality;[xxix]but although the 3rd Duke Litta would certainly have been willing to sell it to them for the National Gallery the opportunity was missed and it was bought instead by Prince Napoleon (1822-91), nephew of Emperor Napoleon I and cousin of Napoleon III. After the Franco-Prussian War and the downfall of the Second Empire in 1870, the prince sold his art collection at Christie’s on 9 May 1872 and the Young Woman was included in the sale as lot 314. There, or soon afterwards, the picture was acquired by Willam Ward, 1st Earl of Dudley (1817-1885) of Dudley Castle, Staffordshire, a landowner and art-lover, who served as a trustee of both the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. After Lord Dudley’s death it remained with his widow until her death in 1929, when it was again sold at Christie’s (19 July 1929, lot 42). By the end of that year it had appeared on the art market in Vienna,[xxx] and it seems to have remained in Austria until its recent reappearance on the Vienna art market in 2013.[xxxi]



#[i] [i] The Travel Notebooks of Sir Charles Eastlake, ed. Susanna Avery-Quash, The Walpole Society, LXXIII, 2011, I, p. 249; The Travel Diaries of Otto Mündler 1855-58, ed. Carol Togneri Dowd, The Walpole Society, LI, London, 1985, p. 102.


[ii]  See Bernard Aikema and Bert W. Meijer, Disegni Veneti di Collezioni Olandesi, Venice, 1985, pp. 47-8.


[iii] Andrea Donati, Paris Bordone. Catalogo Ragionato, Soncino, 2014, pp. 409-10 (cat. 207), and p. 427 (cat. D1).


[iv] For Paris Bordon – in addition to the new monograph by Andrea Donati — see Giordana Canova, Paris Bordon, Venice, 1964; Paris Bordon (exh. cat., Treviso, Palazzo dei Trecento), Milan, 1984; Paris Bordon e il suo Tempo (Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi), Treviso, 1987; Nicholas Penny, National Gallery Catalogues: The Sixteenth Century Italian Paintings. Volume II: Venice 1540-1600, London, 2008, pp. 43-65.


[v] Giorgio Vasari, Le Vite de’ più eccellenti Pittori, Scultori e Architettori (1568), ed. Paola Della Pergola, Luigi Grassi and Giovanni Previtali, VII, Milan, 1965, p. 343.



[vi] Giordana Canova, ‘I viaggi di Paris Bordone’, Arte Veneta, XV, 1961, p. 86. Canova, 1964, pp. 58-9, 79. At this date the author argued that Bordon probably undertook two visits to the French court, twenty years apart, but increasingly scholars no longer believe that any trip took place in 1538.


[vii] W. R. Rearick, ‘The drawings of Paris Bordon’ in Paris Bordon, 1987, p. 58.


[viii] Dorotheum, Vienna, 21 October 2014, lot 94.


[ix] Donati, 2014, cat. 207.


[x] For these works, see Donati, 2014, cats. 64, 5, 88, 18, 181 respectively.


[xi] Józef Grabski, ‘Il quadro alchimistico di Angelo Caroselli nella Fondazione Roberto Longhi a Firenze’, Paragone Arte, no. 341, 1978, pp. 3-13; Rearick, 1987, p. 58.


[xii] The research is illuminatingly summarised by Luke Syson, ‘Belle. Picturing beautiful women’, in Art and Love in Renaissance Italy (exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth), New Haven and London, 2008, pp. 246-54.


[xiii] Editor’s Note. The custom was not confined to the cinquecento. Examples of enigmatic ‘Belle’ continued into the baroque as evidenced by an example by Francesco del Cairo c. 1630 exhibited at The Matthiesen Gallery in 2004. With both breasts suggestively exposed but with an upwards glance that might be interpreted either as salacious ecstasy or as piety, the image may be  variously interpreted as a Lucretia, a Saint, a ‘Bella’ or the artist’s mistress (Beverly L. Brown, Virtuous Virgins, Matthiesen, London, 2004).


[xiv] Vasari, ed. 1965, p. 340.


[xv] See Augusto Gentili, ‘Amore e amorose persone: tra miti ovidiani, allegorie musicali, celebrazioni matrimoniali’, in Tiziano: Amor Sacro e Amor Profano (exh. cat., Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome), Milan, 1995, p. 99.


[xvi] For the iconography of mirrors, see G. F. Hartlaub, Zauber des Spiegels, Munich, 1951; Jan Bialostocki, ‘Man and mirror in painting: reality and transience’, in Studies in Late Medieval and Renaissance Painting in Honor of Millard Meiss, ed. Irving Lavin and John Plummer, New York, 1977, pp. 61-72.


[xvii] As emphasised by Elise Goodman-Soellner, ‘A poetic interpretation of the “Lady at her toilette” theme in sixteenth-century painting,’ Sixteenth Century Journal, XIV, 1983, pp. 426-42.


[xviii] For the paragone debate

34 1/4 x 28 3/8 in. (87 x 72 cm.)
Oil on canvas

Visconti Borromeo, Milan? Conte Antonio Litta Visconti Arese (1748-182). By inheritance to Litta, Milan, where it was seen by Eastlake in 1855 and Mündler in 1856, with attributions from both as ‘Bordone’. By acquisition to Prince Jérôme-Napoléon Bonaparte (1822-1891), Paris. Sale of their collection, Christie’s, London, May 1872; by acquisition, at the price of 7 guineas, to William Ward (1817-1885), Viscount Ednam and 1st Count of Dudley, Park Lane, Mayfair, London; by inheritance to the Widow Georgina Elisabeth Ward (1846-1929), Countess of Dudley, Pembroke Lodge, Richmond Park, London; sale of their collection, Christie’s, London, 25 June 1891 (116.8 x 177.7 cm.), at the price of 51 guineas; sale of their collection, Christie’s, London, 19 July 1929, no. 42. By acquisition to Wilkes. Galerie Sanct Lucas, Vienna, 28 July 1929. Private Collection, Austria.


Musée du Louvre, Department of Graphic Arts Inv. RF 37265, 35, Paintings of Ca Grimani, Paris, XVII century parchment-bound, folio 36, drawing no. VII, in reverse with respect to this painting. Gaetano Zancon, Galleria inedita racolta da privati gabinetti milanesi ed incise in rame da G.Z., Milano, Francesco Fusi e C., 1812, pl. XIII, engraved as ‘Titian’. Giovanni Palamede Carpani, Gaetano Zancon, Raccolta delle migliori dipinture che si conservano nelle private gallerie milanese disegnate ed incise da Gaetano Zanconi, brevemente descritte da Gio. Palamede Carpani e pubblicate da Carlo Aliprandi, Milano, Carlo Aliprandi, 1813, pl. XIII. William Roberts, Memorials of Christie’s: a record of art sales from 1766 to 1896, London, Christie, Manson & Woods Limited, 1897, vol. I, p.223, vol. II, p. 195. Józef Grabski, ‘Il Quadro alchimistico di Angelo Caroselli’, Paragone, XXIX, 341, 1978, p. 7, fig. 4b (mistakenly referred to as Althorp House). Bernard Aikema, Bert Meijer, Disegni veneti di collezioni olandesi, Vicenza, Neri Pozza, 1985, pp. 47-48, 28 (for the supposed preparatory sketch of the arm). Otto Mündler, ‘The travel diaries of Otto Mündler’ [March 4, 1856], I, f.31v, edited and indexed by Carol Togneri Dowd, introduction by Jaynie Anderson, The Walpole Society, LI, 1985, p. 12: ‘at the end of P. Bordone, young woman, at her toilette’; Bertrand Jestaz, Les Collections de peinture à Venise au XVIe siècle, in Geografia del collezionismo, 21 (1996), pp. 197-198, footnote 33, no. B7, Tav. VII. Alessandro Morandotti, Il Collezionismo in Lombardia. Studi e ricerche tra ‘6 e ‘8, Milano, Officina libraria, 28, pp. 17-18, footnote 46, fig. 38-39. Susanna Avery-Quash, ‘The Travel Notebooks of Sir Charles Eastlake’, The Walpole Society, LXXIII, 211, NG 22/8, 1855, f.13r, I, p.249: ‘a Paris Bordones, young woman at her toilet – good specimen’. Andrea Donati, Paris Bordone. Catalogo Ragionato, Soncino, 214, pp. 49-1 (cat. 27), and p. 427 (cat. D1).

Where is It?
Acquired from The Matthiesen Gallery by the Hamburg Kunsthalle 2015.
Historical Period
Mannerism & Cinquecento - 1530-1600
Italian - Venetian
Price band
Sold or not available