The great Renaissance collector Isabella d’Este, marchioness of Mantua, commissioned this portrait of her son Federico Gonzaga to console her after he was taken to the papal court in Rome as a hostage. Francia based it on sketches he made of the ten-year-old heir as he was escorted through Bologna on his way to surrender himself. The painting, completed in just twelve days, captures a stylish youth with a gentle gaze and rosy cheeks that seem intended to convey purity and sweetness. Letters reveal that though Isabella was pleased with Francia’s work, the powerful matriarch thought Federico’s hair looked too blonde and sent it back so that the artist could darken it.
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Title:Federico Gonzaga (1500–1540)
Artist:Francesco Francia (Italian, Bologna ca. 1447–1517 Bologna)
Medium:Tempera on wood, transferred from wood to canvas and then again to wood
Dimensions:Overall 18 7/8 x 14 in. (47.9 x 35.6 cm); painted surface 17 3/4 x 13 1/2 in. (45.1 x 34.3 cm)
Credit Line:Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913
Isabella d'Este, Mantua (1510–12; given to Zaninello); Zanfrancesco Zaninello, Ferrara (from 1512); Napoléon-Joseph-Charles-Paul Bonaparte, Prince Napoléon, Palais Royal, Paris (until 1872; his sale, Christie's, London, May 9–11, 1872, no. 321, as "Portrait of a youth . . . ," by Francia, for £409.10, ?to Rutley); Alexander Barker, London (until 1879; his estate sale, Christie's, London, June 19–21, 1879, no. 479, as "Portrait of a Youth," by Francia, for £34.13 to Lesser); [Lesser, London, from 1879]; Edward Aldam Leatham, Miserden Park, Cirencester, Gloucestershire (until d. 1900); his son, Arthur William Leatham, Miserden Park (1900–1911; sold to Duveen); [Duveen, London, 1911–12; sold to Altman]; Benjamin Altman, New York (1912–d. 1913)
London. Burlington Fine Arts Club. "A Collection of Pictures, Drawings, Bronzes, and Decorative Furniture," 1902, no. 57 (as "Portrait of a Boy," lent by A. W. Leatham).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," January 4–March 12, 1904, no. 12 (lent by Arthur W. Leatham).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini," December 21, 2011–March 18, 2012, no. 93.
THIS WORK MAY NOT BE LENT, BY TERMS OF ITS ACQUISITION BY THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART.
Isabella d' Este. Letter to Matteo Ippolito. July 24, 1510 [see Refs. Luzio and Renier 1901 and Negro and Roio 1998], writes that she is asking Lorenzo Costa to paint a portrait of her son Federigo but since she doesn't believe he will have time, would like Ippolito to arrange to have Francia do it instead.
Matteo Ippolito. Letter to Isabella d'Este. July 29, 1510 [see Refs. Bertolotti 1885 and Negro and Roio 1998], writes that Francia has begun the portrait.
Isabella d' Este. Letter to Girolamo da Casio. August 10, 1510 [see Refs. Luzio 1886 and Negro and Roio 1998], writes that she finds the portrait to be an excellent likeness and that she is impressed that the artist could have created it in such a short amount of time, but requests that the hair be retouched to make it slightly darker.
Girolamo da Casio. Letter to Isabella d'Este. November 7, 1510 [see Refs. Luzio 1886 and Negro and Roio 1998], writes that he is attempting to recover the painting from Rome, where it is being held by a man named Zoanpietro da Cremona; recommends that Isabella herself write a letter requesting its return.
Girolamo da Casio. Letter to Isabella d'Este. November 20, 1510 [see Refs. Luzio 1886 and Negro and Roio 1998], writes that he has recovered the portrait, and that he has taken Francia to see Federigo, in order to compare the painting with the sitter; adds that they both believe that the painting cannot be improved upon and that she will be satisfied with the results, since everything she requested has been done [probably referring to the retouching of the hair].
Isabella d' Este. Letter to Girolamo da Casio. November 29, 1510 [see Refs. Luzio and Renier 1901 and Negro and Roio 1998], writes that she has received the portrait and that she finds it much improved and that it pleases her immensely; adds that she is sending him thirty gold ducats to be given to Francia in payment for the picture.
Isabella d' Este. Letter to Matteo Ippolito. May 24, 1512 [see Ref. Luzio 1886], writes that since she has had to give away the portrait of Federigo by Francia, she would like to commission one by Raphael.
Zanfrancesco Zaninello. Letter to Isabella d'Este. May 30, 1512 [see Ref. Luzio 1900], thanks her for the gift of the portrait.
A[ntonino]. Bertolotti. Artisti bolognesi, ferraresi ed alcuni altri del già Stato Pontificio in Roma nei secoli XV, XVI e XVII: studi e ricerche tratte dagli archivi romani. Bologna, 1885, pp. 33–34, publishes an extract of the letter of July 29, 1510 from Matteo Ippolito to Isabella d'Este [see Ref.].
Alessandro Luzio. "Federico Gonzaga, ostaggio alla corte di Giulio II." Archivio della R. Società romana di storia patria 9 (1886), pp. 513, 548, 563–64, publishes letters detailing the circumstances of the commission and execution of the painting [see Refs. Este, Ippolito, and Casio 1510 and 1512].
Adolfo Venturi. "Lorenzo Costa." Archivio storico dell'arte 1 (1888), p. 253, mentions the portrait.
Ch[arles]. Yriarte. "Isabelle d'Este et les artistes de son temps." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 15 (April 1896), p. 340, repeats the story of the execution of the portrait.
W[illiam]. Roberts. Memorials of Christie's: A Record of Art Sales from 1766 to 1896. London, 1897, vol. 1, p. 223, states that it sold for 390 guineas at the Bonaparte sale of 1872, but does not name the buyer.
Alessandro Luzio. "Arte retrospettiva: I ritratti d'Isabella d'Este." Emporium 11 (1900), p. 430, states that Isabella gave the portrait to Zanfrancesco Zaninello of Ferrara in 1512, quoting a letter to her from him [see Ref. Zaninello 1512].
George C. Williamson. Francesco Raibolini called Francia. London, 1901, pp. 139–41, repeats the story of the execution of the portrait.
Alessandro Luzio and Rodolfo Renier. "La coltura e le relazioni letterarie di Isabella d'Este Gonzaga." Giornale storico della letteratura italiana 38, nos. 1–2 (1901), p. 63.
Herbert Cook. "A Lost Portrait by Francia." Athenæum no. 3928 (February 7, 1903), pp. 183–84, as in the collection of A. W. Leatham; erroneously states that Leatham's father acquired it from the Bonaparte collection; identifies it as the documented portrait of Federigo Gonzaga painted by Francia in 1510.
Julia Cartwright. "The Lost Portrait by Francia." Athenæum no. 3929 (February 14, 1903), p. 216, accepts Cook's [see Ref. (Athenæum) 1903] identification of the MMA work as the documented portrait of Federigo Gonzaga painted by Francia in 1510; notes that the sitter's hair has been repainted, as requested by his mother in a letter to Francia [see Ref. Este (August) 1510]; suggests that the medallion in the hat is the work of Caradosso.
Herbert Cook. "Three Unpublished Italian Portraits." Burlington Magazine 1 (April 1903), p. 186, ill. opp. p. 147.
Julia Cartwright. Isabella d'Este, Marchioness of Mantua, 1474–1539: A Study of the Renaissance. London, 1903, vol. 1, pp. 379–81, repeats the story of the execution of the portrait.
Louise M. Richter. "Drei verschollene, kürzlich wiedergefundene Meisterwerke." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, n.s., 14 (1903), pp. 263–65, ill., accepts the identification of the MMA painting as Francia's documented portrait of Federigo of 1510.
Langton Douglas. "The Lost Portrait by Francia." Athenæum no. 3929 (February 14, 1903), p. 216, accepts Cook's [see Ref. (Athenæum) 1903] identification of the MMA portrait as the documented portrait of Federigo Gonzaga painted by Francia in 1510.
Langton Douglas. "The Exhibition of Old Masters at the Burlington Fine Arts Club." Connoisseur 5 (April 1903), pp. 271–72, ill.
Langton Douglas. "Notizie d'Inghilterra." L'arte 6 (1903), pp. 107–8, ill. opp. p. 110.
Bernhard Berenson. North Italian Painters of the Renaissance. New York, 1907, p. 221.
Salomon Reinach. Répertoire de peintures du moyen age et de la renaissance (1280–1580). Vol. 3, Paris, 1910, p. 81, no. 2, ill. (engraving).
Edmund G. Gardner. The Painters of the School of Ferrara. London, 1911, pp. 102–4, 218.
Bernhard Berenson. Letter to Duveen. January 12, 1911.
Tancred Borenius, ed. A History of Painting in North Italy: Venice, Padua, Vicenza, Verona, Ferrara, Milan, Friuli, Brescia, from the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth Century.. By J[oseph]. A[rcher]. Crowe and G[iovanni]. B[attista]. Cavalcaselle. 2nd ed. [1st ed. 1871]. London, 1912, vol. 2, p. 285 n. 1, erroneously lists it as still in the Leatham collection.
F. "Aus der Sammlerwelt und vom Kunsthandel: New-York." Der Cicerone 4 (1912), p. 339, notes that Duveen bought it from Leatham for an American collector.
"Aus der Sammlerwelt und vom Kunsthandel." Der Cicerone 4, no. 10 (1912), p. 415, notes that it has been bought by Altman.
"Altman Gets the Francia." American Art News 10 (April 13, 1912), p. 1, ill.
"Our Plates." Connoisseur 33 (May 1912), p. 50, ill. opp. p. 12, states that it remained in Ferrara until Napoleon's invasion of Italy and, erroneously, that E. A. Leatham bought it from the Bonaparte collection [see also Ref. Cook (Athenæum) 1903]; adds that Duveen purchased it from Leatham's son.
"A Francia Coming Here." American Art News 10 (March 16, 1912), p. 4.
Giuseppe Lipparini. Francesco Francia. Bergamo, 1913, p. 128, ill. p. 126, erroneously as still in the Leathan [sic] collection.
Alessandro Luzio. La Galleria dei Gonzaga venduta all'Inghilterra nel 1627–28. repr., 1974. Rome, 1913, pp. 81, 214–16, ill. opp. p. 16, erroneously as still in the Leatham collection; accepts the identification of the MMA picture as Francia's documented portrait of Federigo.
A[dolfo]. Venturi. "La pittura del Quattrocento." Storia dell'arte italiana. Vol. 7, part 3, Milan, 1914, pp. 855–56, 940, fig. 697.
G[eorg]. Gronau inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Ulrich Thieme. Vol. 12, Leipzig, 1916, p. 321.
Francesco Malaguzzi Valeri. Il Francia. Florence, 1921, p. 15, fig. 36.
François Monod. "La galerie Altman au Metropolitan Museum de New-York (1er article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 5th ser., 8 (September–October 1923), pp. 190–91, ill. p. 189.
Giuseppe Piazzi. Le opere di Francesco Raibolini, detto Il Francia: Orefice e pittore. Bologna, 1925, pp. 58–59.
[Michael] Bryan. Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers. Ed. George C. Williamson. Vol. 4, new ed., rev. and enl. London, 1926, p. 183.
Lionello Venturi. Pitture italiane in America. Milan, 1931, unpaginated, pl. CCCXXII.
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 208.
"Our Plates." Connoisseur 89 (June 1932), p. 416, ill. opp. p. 390.
Lionello Venturi. Italian Paintings in America. Vol. 2, Fifteenth Century Renaissance. New York, 1933, unpaginated, pl. 433.
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 179.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 144–45, ill.
Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941, unpaginated, no. 139, ill.
Lillian Ross. "Profiles: How do you like it now, gentlemen?" New Yorker (May 13, 1950), p. 58 [reprinted as "Portrait of Hemingway," New York, 1961, p. 57], records Ernest Hemingway's comments on this painting during a visit to the Museum.
Jan Lauts. Isabella d'Este, Fürstin der Renaissance: 1474–1539. Hamburg, 1952, p. 257, fig. 45.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 37.
Chiara Perina inMantova: Le arti. Vol. 2, Dall'inizio del secolo XV alla metà del XVI. Mantua, 1961, part 1, p. 385; part 2, pl. 328.
Paola Boni Fellini. "Isabella d'Este a Roma." Capitolium 37 (March 1962), ill. p. 145.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, p. 148.
Fern Rusk Shapley. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. Vol. 2, Italian Schools: XV–XVI Century. London, 1968, p. 71.
Francis Haskell. "The Benjamin Altman Bequest." Metropolitan Museum Journal 3 (1970), pp. 272–73, fig. 12, states that Altman acquired it in February 1912.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 75, 513, 606.
Fern Rusk Shapley. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. Washington, 1979, vol. 1, p. 191.
Maurizia Tazartes. "Artisti e committenti ai primi del Cinquecento in San Frediano di Lucca." Ricerche di storia dell'arte 21 (1983), p. 6.
Carlo Volpe. "Un quadro in cerca d'autore: l''Ignota' dell'Ambrosiana." Scritti di storia dell'arte in onore di Federico Zeri. Vol. 1, Milan, 1984, p. 283.
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, North Italian School. New York, 1986, pp. 19–20, pl. 25.
Simonetta Stagni inPittura bolognese del '500. Ed. Vera Fortunati Pietrantonio. Bologna, 1986, vol. 1, pp. 5, 8, ill. p. 24.
Vera Fortunati Pietrantonio inPittura bolognese del '500. Ed. Vera Fortunati Pietrantonio. Bologna, 1986, vol. 1, p. XVII.
Chiara Tellini Perina inPittura a Mantova dal Romanico al Settecento. Ed. Mina Gregori. Milan, 1989, pp. 24, 225, pl. 49.
Marzia Faietti. "Protoclassicismo e cultura umanistica nei disegni di Francesco Francia." Il classicismo: Medioevo, rinascimento, barocco. Ed. Cesare Gnudi. Bologna, 1993, pp. 187–88.
Federica Toniolo. "I dipinti di Francesco Francia e della sua bottega conservati al Museo di Belle Arti." Bulletin du Musée Hongrois des Beaux-Arts no. 78 (1993), p. 67 n. 5.
Sylvia Ferino-Pagden. "La prima donna del mondo": Isabella d'Este, Fürstin und Mäzenatin der Renaissance. Exh. cat., Kunsthistorisches Museum. Vienna, , p. 94, fig. 20.
Leandro Ventura. Lorenzo Leonbruno: Un pittore a corte nella Mantova di primo Cinquecento. Rome, 1995, p. 79, fig. 88.
Michela Scolaro inLa pittura in Emilia e in Romagna: Il Cinquecento. Ed. Vera Fortunati. Milan, 1995, vol. 1, p. 92, ill. p. 96.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 113, ill.
Gaudenz Freuler. "'El più bel ritracto facesse mai Magistro Francesco': Francesco Bonsignoris wiedergefundene Porträtzeichnung des dreijährigen Federico II. Gonzaga." Pantheon 54 (1996), pp. 51–52, 54–55, 58 nn. 10, 20, fig. 5.
David Ekserdjian inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 11, New York, 1996, p. 701.
Emilio Negro and Nicosetta Roio. Francesco Francia e la sua scuola. Modena, 1998, pp. 84, 116–18, 195–97, no. 70, ill. (color).
Andrea Bayer. "North of the Apennines: Sixteenth-Century Italian Painting in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 60 (Spring 2003), pp. 42–44, fig. 29 (color).
Joseph Manca inItalian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century. Washington, 2003, pp. 283–84, 286 n. 10, fig. 1.
John Shearman. Raphael in Early Modern Sources (1483–1602). New Haven, 2003, vol. 1, pp. 158–59.
Meryle Secrest. Duveen: A Life in Art. New York, 2004, pp. 114, 435.
Sally Hickson. "'To see ourselves as others see us': Giovanni Francesco Zaninello of Ferrara and the Portrait of Isabella d'Este by Francesco Francia." Renaissance Studies 23, no. 3 (2009), p. 295, fig. 3.
Keith Christiansen inThe Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini. Ed. Keith Christiansen and Stefan Weppelmann. Exh. cat., Bode-Museum, Berlin. New York, 2011, p. 236 [German ed., "Gesichter der Renaissance: Meisterwerke italienischer Portrait-Kunst," Berlin, p. 234].
Andrea Bayer inThe Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini. Ed. Keith Christiansen and Stefan Weppelmann. Exh. cat., Bode-Museum, Berlin. New York, 2011, pp. 241–44, no. 93, ill. (color) [German ed., "Gesichter der Renaissance: Meisterwerke italienischer Portrait-Kunst," Berlin, pp. 242–44, no. 93, ill. (color)].
Beverly Louise Brown inThe Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini. Ed. Keith Christiansen and Stefan Weppelmann. Exh. cat., Bode-Museum, Berlin. New York, 2011, pp. 47, 383 n. 125 [German ed., "Gesichter der Renaissance: Meisterwerke italienischer Portrait-Kunst," Berlin, pp. 46, 383 n. 125].
Eleonora Luciano inThe Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini. Ed. Keith Christiansen and Stefan Weppelmann. Exh. cat., Bode-Museum, Berlin. New York, 2011, p. 239.
Andrea Bayer. "Collecting North Italian Paintings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art." A Market for Merchant Princes: Collecting Italian Renaissance Paintings in America. Ed. Inge Reist. University Park, Pa., 2015, pp. 91, 124 n. 20.
Giorgia Mancini and Nicholas Penny. The Sixteenth Century Italian Paintings. Vol. 3, Bologna and Ferrara. London, 2016, pp. 150, 153 n. 12, as the only precisely dated portrait by Francia.
Maria Alambritis. "Edith Coulson James, Francesco Francia, and 'The Burlington Magazine,' 1911–17." Burlington Magazine 164 (January 2022), pp. 48–49 n. 68.
A late-sixteenth- or early-seventeenth-century cassetta frame from northern Italy, cut down but otherwise in fine condition.
Federigo Gonzaga was the son of Isabella d'Este and Francesco II Gonzaga. This painting was executed between July 24 and August 10, 1510, at which time Federigo was ten years old.
A partial copy of the head and shoulders only was no. 453 in the conti di Montevecchio sale, Aug. Jandolo, Rome, May 21–31, 1934.
"The panel is cradled. Despite the fact that the painting has been transferred on two occasions, it is in excellent state. The only significant loss is in the hair. The gold embroidery along the gathered neckline and sleeve as well as gold highlights on a tall tree in the left distance were evidently removed by the artist; traces remain. X-rays show that at one point the collar was considerably higher. It is impossible to reach any conclusion as to whether the hair was retouched by Francia." (Zeri and Gardner 1986)
This work may not be lent, by terms of its acquisition by The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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