Federigo Gonzaga (1500–1540)

Artist: Francesco Francia (Italian, Bologna ca. 1447–1517 Bologna)

Date: 1510

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)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913

Accession Number: 14.40.638


The great Renaissance collector Isabella d’Este, marquess of Mantua, commissioned this charming portrait of her son Federigo Gonzaga to console her when he was taken to the papal court in Rome as hostage. It was painted by Francia as the young heir passed through Bologna, and was so admired that Isabella had to reclaim it from some papal courtiers. Federigo’s black hat and gold-embroidered gown were much in vogue, and his gaze is exceptionally sweet for a fifteenth-century portrait. Soon after Isabella finally received the portrait she gave it away in response to an unexpected gift from a gentleman in Ferrara who had sent her a magnificent book of sonnets.