Seated in an elaborately decorated folding chair, this young woman is an image of self-possession and demure elegance (note her sidelong glance and the way she holds the linen handkerchief and the gold waist chain). The architectural background appears in many Florentine portraits of the period, complicating the attribution. It has recently been suggested that the picture was painted by the young Francesco Zucchi, who was employed in the decoration of the studiolo (private study) of Francesco de’ Medici in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. An assistant of Vasari, Zucchi later had a Roman career working for Cardinal Ferdinando de’ Medici.
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Credit Line:The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931
The sitter, a young woman, is shown seated in an ivory-inlaid folding chair (also known as a Savonarola or Dante chair). She wears a sottana (petticoat) with detachable sleeves—formerly an undergarment that became popular as an outer dress in the 1550s and ‘60s (see Orsi Landini and Niccoli 2005). This fashion provides a firm ground for dating the picture, both the date and attribution of which have long puzzled scholars (see References for the various opinions). The initial identity of the sitter as Maria de’ Medici (1540–1557), the daughter of Cosimo I de’ Medici and Eleonora of Toledo, has long since been abandoned, but without a further suggestion of who the young woman in question might be. Equally implausible was the idea that the picture might be by Bronzino, and over the years the names of various artists have been proposed, ranging from a major figure such as Francesco Salviati to (more plausibly) Michele di Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio (Michele Tosini, 1503–1577) or his pupil Francesco Brina (1540–1586)—by both of whom there are known portraits—to (impossibly) Lucia Anguissola (1536/38–before 1568), the sister of the famous female painter Sofonisba Anguissola. To date, the most detailed analysis of the picture is that of Alessandro Cecchi (2001), who has made a strong case for ascribing this picture to the very gifted young Jacopo Zucchi, working before he went to Rome and at a time when he was still strongly under the influence of Giorgio Vasari, with whom he had worked on the decoration of the Salone del Cinquecento in Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. Cecchi characterizes the picture as exemplifying a period when this artist “oscillates between a dependence on Vasarian models and the emergence of an increasingly preponderant style that is both independent and innovative and that would have its fruition in late Cinquecento Rome.” It should be noted that even before moving to Rome, where he achieved fame working for Cardinal Ferdinando de' Medici in his Palazzo Firenze (1574), Jacopo had participated in the decoration of the studiolo of Francesco de’ Medici in Palazzo Vecchio.
Keith Christiansen 2018
private collection, Florence (until about 1847; sold to Grosvenor); Richard Grosvenor, 2nd Marquess of Westminster (about 1847–d. 1869); Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, 3rd Marquess of Westminster, later 1st Duke of Westminster (from 1869?); his sister, Lady Theodora Guest, Inwood House, Templecombe, Somerset; [R. Langton Douglas, London, until 1917; sold to Kleinberger]; [Kleinberger, New York, 1917, as by Bronzino; sold to Friedsam]; Michael Friedsam, New York (1917–d. 1931)
New York. F. Kleinberger Galleries. "Italian Primitives," November 12–30, 1917, no. 39 (as "Portrait of Maria di Cosimo de' Medici," by Bronzino, lent by Michael Friedsam).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Michael Friedsam Collection," November 15, 1932–April 9, 1933, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Florentine Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," June 15–August 15, 1971, no catalogue.
Bernard Berenson in The Michael Friedsam Collection. [completed 1928], pp. 90–92, attributes this portrait to Salviati; rejects the identification of the sitter as Maria di Cosimo, and considers the costume Venetian of about 1550.
Arthur McComb. Agnolo Bronzino, His Life and Works. Cambridge, Mass., 1928, pp. 115–16, calls it a portrait of Maria di Cosimo de' Medici, rejects the attribution to Bronzino, and suggests ascribing it to Salviati, dating it 1554–57.
Bryson Burroughs and Harry B. Wehle. "The Michael Friedsam Collection: Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27, section 2 (November 1932), p. 40, no. 68, attribute it to Salviati; note that the portrait was once labeled "Maria di Cosimo de' Medici" and attributed to Bronzino, but doubt either to be the case; observe the "extreme elegance" and artificiality of pose that are typical of Florentine portraits of the mid-sixteenth century.
Hermann Voss. Letter. December 1935, observes its similarity to the style of Salviati, but suggests attributing it to Michele Ghirlandaio or Francesco Brina.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, p. 70, ill., dates it about 1550, based on the costume; notes that it was formerly attributed to Salviati but observes that it lacks similarities with his style.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 51.
Irene Kühnel-Kunze. "Zur Bildniskunst der Sofonisba und Lucia Anguisciola." Pantheon 20 (March–April 1962), pp. 92–93, 95–96 n. 25, fig. 16, attributes it to Lucia Anguissola, comparing it with her "Portrait of Three Children of the Gaddi Family" in the collection of Lord Methuen at Corsham Court.
Iris Hofmeister Cheney. "Francesco Salviati (1510–1563)." PhD diss., New York University, 1963, vol. 2, pp. 489–90; vol. 3, fig. 417, lists this portrait among the works probably not by Salviati; believes Voss's [Ref. 1935] and Longhi's [Ref. 1937] attribution to Michele di Ridolfo and Brina to be the most accurate thus far.
Peter Cannon Brookes. "The Portraits of Maso da San Friano." Burlington Magazine 108 (November 1966), pp. 564, 567, fig. 27, attributes this portrait to Maso da San Friano, citing the hard, dry quality of the paint that is close to the handling found in his large altarpieces.
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Florentine School. New York, 1971, pp. 209–10, ill., attribute it to an unknown Florentine painter from the mid-sixteenth century.
David McTavish. Letter to Katharine Baetjer. December 20, 1984, attributes it to Giorgio Vasari.
Elizabeth Pilliod. Letter to Keith Christiansen. August 29, 1994, rejects an attribution to Francesco Brina; observes that the chair and architecture in the background both are typical of the late 1540s and 1550s and appear in portraits by Bronzino and Pontormo; suggests that it might be an early work by Michele di Ridolfo Ghirlandaio (alias Tosini).
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 38, ill., as "Portrait of a Woman".
Alessandro Cecchi. "Jacopo Zucchi 'à la manière de' Giorgio Vasari: Il ritratto di gentildonna del Metropolitan Museum di New York." The Plume & the Palette: Essays in Honor of Josephine von Henneberg. Ed. Pamela Berger, Jeffery Howe, and Susan A. Michalczyk. New York, 2001, pp. 17–26, figs. 11–14 (overall and details), ascribes it to the young Jacopo Zucchi, working under the influence of Vasari.
Roberta Orsi Landini and Bruna Niccoli. Moda a Firenze 1540–1580: Lo stile di Eleonora di Toledo e la sua influenza. Florence, 2005, pp. 76, 85, fig. 26 and ill. p. 197 (color, overall and detail), discuss the dress, a "sottana" (petticoat) with detachable sleeves, that was popular in the 1550s and 1560s, and note Cecchi's attribution to Jacopo Zucchi.
Elizabeth Pilliod inThe Medici: Portraits and Politics, 1512–1570. Ed. Keith Christiansen and Carlo Falciani. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2021, p. 146.
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