Federico Gonzaga (1500–1540)

Francesco Francia Italian

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 604

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.

Federico Gonzaga (1500–1540), Francesco Francia (Italian, Bologna ca. 1447–1517 Bologna), Tempera on wood, transferred from wood to canvas and then again to wood

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