The sitter of this striking portrait has been identified as the fifth daughter of the banker Francesco Sassetti and his wife (they had seven daughters in all). The occasion may have been her marriage to Simone d’Amerigo Carnesecchi in 1488. Her eye-catching necklace is made of richly symbolic materials that communicate her merits as a wife according to contemporary ideals, with pearls indicating her purity and a strand of corals representing health. The background was originally blue, which darkened as the azurite pigment aged. The fine frame is of the sixteenth century.
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Credit Line:The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931
Two portraits of this young woman exist: a life-size full-length in Domenico Ghirlandaio's mural of the Raising of the Roman Notary's Son in the Sassetti chapel of the church of Santa Trinita, Florence, and this bust-length that shows her standing before a plain background which was originally blue, the azurite pigment having discolored. The mural contains over a dozen portraits of members of the banker Francesco Sassetti's household, including three daughters who stand and kneel in the front row of the mural, which was completed by Christmas Day 1485: sixteen-year-old Lisabetta on the far left, in a white brocade gown with her hair elaborately coiffed in the Florentine bridal fashion (since she was betrothed as the mural was being executed); fifteen-year-old Selvaggia in a gown of the light blue color called cilestri di bianco in contemporary inventories, with the loose hair of young unmarried Florentine women; and eleven-year-old Maddalena, kneeling as the distraught figure by the catafalque, with the long blond hair and red dress of her name saint. In 1488, Selvaggia married Simone d'Amerigo Carnesechi. Her wedding is the most likely occasion for commissioning the Museum's portrait, in which she is more mature than she is in the mural, which was painted three years earlier.
Infrared reflectography reveals summary lines for the eyes, eyebrows, the eye socket of the sitter's left eye, and the nose, lips, and chin. Before drawing these lines on the panel, the artist must have made a preparatory study like the large metalpoint drawing by Domenico Ghirlandaio's younger contemporary Filippino Lippi of the bust of a stern matron in the Gabinetto disegni e stampe degli Uffizi, which, coincidentally, shows the sitter in the same pose as the young woman in the Metropolitan's portrait, with her body turned slightly to the right, her head inclined to the left, and her eyes focused on the spectator. Van Marle's (1931) suggestion that a drawing of a young woman in the British Museum is a sketch for the Metropolitan's portrait is sometimes repeated in the literature (Venturi 1933, Wehle 1940, Ragghianti Collobi 1949), but the drawing bears only a superficial resemblance, and it is now accepted as by Perugino (A. E. Popham and Philip Pouncey, Italian Drawings in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum: The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries, 1950, p. 117).
Since Van Marle first published the panel in 1931, it has been widely accepted as an autograph work by Domenico Ghirlandaio, though some doubts have been expressed orally. In the most recent monograph on Ghirlandaio, Jean Cadogan (2000) catalogued it with Domenico's autograph work but qualified her attribution by saying the portrait "is probably by an unidentified helper in Ghirlandaio's workshop." She did, however, observe the "pronounced left-handed hatching of the brushstrokes," with diagonal hatching from the top left to lower right, which recur in other Ghirlandaiesque works attributed to Domenico's younger brother David. In fact, David was the only left-handed painter working in Domenico's circle (Jill Dunkerton. "Michelangelo as a Painter on Panel." In Making & Meaning: The Young Michelangelo. Exh. cat., National Gallery, London, 1994, pp. 83–105) , with whose work the present portrait is consistent.
[2011; adapted from Fahy 2011]
Léopold Goldschmidt, Paris (before d. 1904); comte André Pastré, Paris (until 1924; sold to Kleinberger); [Kleinberger, Paris and New York, 1924; sold to Friedsam]; Michael Friedsam, New York (1924–d. 1931)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Michael Friedsam Collection," November 15, 1932–April 9, 1933, no catalogue.
Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. "30 Masterpieces: An Exhibition of Paintings from the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 4–November 23, 1947, unnumbered cat. (as "Portrait of a Lady of the Sassetti Family").
Iowa City. State University of Iowa, School of Fine Arts. "30 Masterpieces: An Exhibition of Paintings from the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art," January 9–March 31, 1948, unnumbered cat.
Bloomington. Indiana University. "30 Masterpieces: An Exhibition of Paintings from the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 18–May 16, 1948, no catalogue.
Florence. Palazzo Strozzi. "Lorenzo il Magnifico e le arti," May 21–October 31, 1949, no. 1 (in room 10; as "Ritratto di giovanetta della famiglia Sassetti," by Domenico Ghirlandaio).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Florentine Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," June 15–August 15, 1971, no catalogue.
Budapest. Szépmüvészeti Múzeum. "Botticelli to Titian: Two Centuries of Italian Masterpieces," October 28, 2009–February 14, 2010, no. 30.
Madrid. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. "Ghirlandaio y el Renacimiento en Florencia," June 23–October 10, 2010, no. 15 (as by Domenico Ghirlandaio and a workshop assistant, possibly David Ghirlandaio).
Bode Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. "Gesichter der Renaissance: Meisterwerke italienischer Portrait-Kunst," August 25–November 20, 2011, no. 17.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini," December 21, 2011–March 18, 2012, no. 17.
Munich. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Alte Pinakothek. "Florence and its Painters: From Giotto to Leonardo da Vinci," October 18, 2018–January 27, 2019, no. 79.
Brisbane. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art. "European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," June 12–October 17, 2021, unnumbered cat.
Osaka. Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts. "European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," November 13, 2021–January 16, 2022.
Tokyo. National Art Center. "European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," February 9–May 30, 2022.
Bernard Berenson. Letter to Michael Friedsam. June 16, 1924, attributes it to Domenico Ghirlandaio; identifies the sitter as the lady whose portrait appears in the fresco of Saint Francis Raising the Dead Child, in the chapel of the Sassetti family in the church of the Santa Trinita, Florence.
Bernard Berenson in The Michael Friedsam Collection. [completed 1928], pp. 69–70, attributes it to Domenico Ghirlandaio, dates it no later than 1486, and identifies the sitter as a member of the Sassetti family.
Alfred M. Frankfurter. "Thirty-Five Portraits from American Collections." Art News 29, no. 33 (May 16, 1931), p. 3, as probably a portrait of a daughter of Francesco Sassetti.
Lionello Venturi. Pitture italiane in America. Milan, 1931, unpaginated, pl. CCV, attributes it to Domenico Ghirlandaio and dates it 1483, the time of the frescoes in Santa Trinita; accepts Van Marle's [see Ref. 1931] suggestion that the British Museum drawing is a study for the painting.
Raimond van Marle. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. Vol. 13, The Renaissance Painters of Florence in the 15th Century: The Third Generation. The Hague, 1931, pp. 95–96, fig. 59, attributes it to Domenico Ghirlandaio and reproduces a drawing in the British Museum, London, as a sketch for this portrait (fig. 60); dates it to the same period as Ghirlandaio's frescoes in the church of Santa Maria Novella, Florence.
Raimond van Marle. "Tre ritratti di Domenico Ghirlandaio." Bollettino d'arte 25 (1931), pp. 13–14, fig. 5, dates it to the time of the Santa Maria Novella frescoes, 1486–90.
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 225, lists it as "Head of Young Woman of Sassetti Family," by Domenico Ghirlandaio.
Bryson Burroughs and Harry B. Wehle. "The Michael Friedsam Collection: Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27, section 2 (November 1932), p. 36, no. 59, ill. p. 41, attribute it to Domenico Ghirlandaio, believe the same woman is represented in the Sassetti chapel fresco, and place it in the same period as Ghirlandaio's portrait of Giovanna degli Albizzi Tornabuoni (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid; formerly Morgan Library), dated 1488.
"Friedsam Bequest to be Exhibited Next November." Art News 30 (January 2, 1932), p. 13, prints Bryson Burroughs's survey of the Friedsam paintings.
Lionello Venturi. Italian Paintings in America. Vol. 2, Fifteenth Century Renaissance. New York, 1933, unpaginated, pl. 266.
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 194.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, p. 54, as "Portrait of a Lady of the Sassetti Family"; attributes it to Domenico Ghirlandaio and dates it about 1490; states that the drawing in the British Museum "is possibly a sketch for this portrait" [see Ref. Marle, "Italian Schools," 1931].
Millia Davenport. The Book of Costume. New York, 1948, vol. 1, p. 285, no. 777, ill. p. 284 (cropped).
Licia Ragghianti Collobi. Lorenzo il Magnifico e le arti. Exh. cat., Palazzo Strozzi. Florence, 1949, p. 67, no. 1, as by Domenico Ghirlandaio; dates it 1485–90; identifies the sitter as the same woman who appears in the "Resurrection of the Notary's Son" in the Sassetti chapel; accepts the British Museum drawing as a preparatory study.
Ugo Galetti and Ettore Camesasca. Enciclopedia della pittura italiana. [Milan], 1951, vol. 2, p. 1075, as in the Friedsman [sic] collection, New York; identify the sitter as the same young woman of the Sassetti family portrayed in the fresco in the Sassetti chapel; describe her clothing.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 42.
A. Hyatt Mayor. "The Gifts that Made the Museum." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 16 (November 1957), ill. p. 99, as "Portrait of a Lady of the Sassetti Family".
Giuseppe Marchini. "Domenico Ghirlandaio, il grande cronista figurativo della Firenze Laurenziana." Secoli vari ('300–'400–'500). Florence, 1958, pp. 309–10, mentions it as one of three portraits of Sassetti's daughters painted by Ghirlandaio while his assistants prepared the Sassetti chapel in Santa Trinita for frescoing; refers to the three pictures as among Domenico's best works.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Florentine School. London, 1963, vol. 1, p. 76.
A[ndré]. C[hastel]. inDictionnaire universel de l'art et des artistes. Vol. 2, Paris, 1967, ill. p. 25 (color), as a portrait of a woman of the Sassetti family by Domenico Ghirlandaio.
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, p. 137, ill. p. 136, attribute it to Domenico Ghirlandaio and date it to "the last years of the 1480s".
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 83, 529, 607, as "Portrait of a Lady" by Domenico Ghirlandaio.
Jean K. Cadogan. Letter to Keith Christiansen. April 3, 1979, rejects the attribution to Domenico Ghirlandaio, stating, "the hand is the same as the one that executed the St. Roch in the Rimini altarpiece" in the Museo Civicio, Rimini [see Christian von Holst, "Francesco Granacci," Munich, 1974, for the attribution of this figure to Granacci].
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 26, ill., as "Portrait of a Woman".
Luísa Sampaio in"Only the Best": Masterpieces of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon. Ed. Katharine Baetjer and James David Draper. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1999, p. 46, under no. 19, dates it about 1485 and compares it to a female portrait by Domenico Ghirlandaio in the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum.
Jean K. Cadogan. Domenico Ghirlandaio: Artist and Artisan. New Haven, 2000, pp. 188, 279–80, no. 48, fig. 260, states that it is "probably by an unidentified helper in Ghirlandaio's workshop in the mid-1480s".
David Alan Brown inVirtue and Beauty: Leonardo's "Ginevra de' Benci" and Renaissance Portraits of Women. Ed. David Alan Brown. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2001, pp. 186, 188 n. 4, under no. 29, calls it "Young Lady of the Sassetti Family," and compares it to a female portrait by Ghirlandaio in the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown.
Eleonora Luciano inItalian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century. Washington, 2003, pp. 306–7 n. 19, finds it closely related to a portrait of Lucrezia Tornabuoni of about 1475 attributed to Domenico Ghirlandaio (National Gallery of Art, Washington).
Francesca Pasut inDa Bernardo Daddi al Beato Angelico a Botticelli: dipinti fiorentini del Lindenau-Museum di Altenburg. Ed. Miklós Boskovits with the assistance of Daniela Parenti. Exh. cat., Museo di San Marco. Florence, 2005, p. 95 n. 27, calls it a portrait of the same young woman of the Sassetti family seen in the Santa Trinita fresco; notes that Cadogan [see Ref. 2000] rejects the attribution to Domenico Ghirlandaio.
Jacqueline Marie Musacchio. Art, Marriage, & Family in the Florentine Renaissance Palace. New Haven, 2008, p. 49, fig. 50 (color), calls it a portrait of one of Francesco Sassetti's five daughters and dates it about 1485.
Nicoletta Pons inBotticelli to Titian: Two Centuries of Italian Masterpieces. Ed. Dóra Sallay et al. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. Budapest, 2009, p. 108.
Vilmos Tátrai inBotticelli to Titian: Two Centuries of Italian Masterpieces. Ed. Dóra Sallay et al. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. Budapest, 2009, p. 175.
Everett Fahy inBotticelli to Titian: Two Centuries of Italian Masterpieces. Ed. Dóra Sallay et al. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. Budapest, 2009, pp. 182–83, no. 30, ill. (color).
Rab Hatfield. "Some Misidentifications in and of Works by Botticelli." Sandro Botticelli and Herbert Horne: New Research. Ed. Rab Hatfield. Florence, 2009, p. 34 n. 144, believes that the sitter—also depicted, dressed in blue and carrying a handkerchief, in Domenico Ghirlandaio's fresco of the "Raising of the Son of the Roman Notary" in the Sassetti chapel in Santa Trinita, Florence—cannot be a born Sassetti, but rather is probably an in-law.
Gert Jan van der Sman inGhirlandaio y el Renacimiento en Florencia. Exh. cat., Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Madrid, 2010, pp. 48–49, 72–73, 86, 277, 285–86, 290, no. 15, ill. (color), accepts the identification of the sitter as Selvaggia Sassetti and dates the picture about 1487–88; calls it a "spin-off" from the commission of the fresco cycle in the Sassetti chapel and places it within "a group of independent portraits made under the supervision of Ghirlandaio in close collaboration with an assistant, possibly David".
Stefan Weppelmann inThe Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini. Ed. Keith Christiansen and Stefan Weppelmann. Exh. cat., Bode-Museum, Berlin. New York, 2011, p. 67 [German ed., "Gesichter der Renaissance: Meisterwerke italienischer Portrait-Kunst," Berlin].
Everett Fahy inThe Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini. Ed. Keith Christiansen and Stefan Weppelmann. Exh. cat., Bode-Museum, Berlin. New York, 2011, pp. 117–18, 139, no. 17, ill. (color) [German ed., "Gesichter der Renaissance: Meisterwerke italienischer Portrait-Kunst," Berlin, pp. 117–18, no. 17, ill. (color)].
Annette Kranz inFlorence and its Painters: From Giotto to Leonardo da Vinci. Ed. Andreas Schumacher. Exh. cat., Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Alte Pinakothek. Munich, 2018, pp. 82, 304–5, 308, 337, no. 79, ill. (color), states that the coral necklace is a symbol of virtue; reads the red strip along the bottom as a parapet.
Katharine Baetjer inEuropean Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Exh. cat., Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art. South Brisbane, 2021, pp. 66, 231, ill. p. 67 (color).
A fine early-sixteenth-century frame, cut down at the corners and partly regilt.
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Sassetta (Stefano di Giovanni) (Italian, Siena or Cortona ca. 1400–1450 Siena)
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