Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

  • Title: Bianca Maria Sforza
  • Creator: Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis, painter
  • Description:

    Bianca, the niece of Ludovico Sforza, wears a richly embroidered dress with a bejeweled belt and a bejeweled headdress. Her long hair is braided and wound with pearls and precious silk and she wears a necklace made of large pearls and a bejeweled pendant. Her dress is made from cloth of gold and incorporates a triple cluster of ever-living plants (sempervivum tectorum), an emblem adopted by the first Storza duke of Milan, Francesco.

    Portraits in which the female sitter displayed her material wealth were typically commissioned at the time of her wedding or as a commemoration of the event. Furthermore, there is a carnation tucked in her belt (and echoed in the pattern of her dress). This is a common of betrothal. Bianca married Emperor Maximilian I in 1494. Rendering the female sitter in profile drew from the majesty of classical portraiture but also served an ideological purpose: the woman's beauty and confident expression make her the embodiment of humanist virtue, in which outer beauty reflects inner merit, but her gaze is averted from the (likely male) viewer, thus encoding a sense of voyeurism into the work.

  • Source: WikiMedia Commons
  • Rights: Public domain
  • Subject (See Also): Nuptial Imagery Profile Portraits Sforza, Bianca Maria, Wife of Emperor Maximilian I
  • Geographic Area: Italy
  • Century: 15
  • Date: ca. 1493
  • Related Work:
  • Current Location: Washington D.C., National Gallery of Art, 1942.9.53
  • Original Location:
  • Artistic Type (Category): Digital images; Paintings
  • Artistic Type (Material/Technique): Panel paintings; Oil
  • Donor:
  • Height/Width/Length(cm): 51cm/32.5cm/
  • Inscription: On Bianca's headdress is the Sforza motto: MERITO ET TEMPORE [With Merit and Time]
  • Related Resources:

    Monnas, Lisa. "All that Glitters: Cloth of Gold as a Vehicle for Display, 1300-1550." Arrayed in Splendour: Art, Fashion, and Textiles in Medieval and Early Modern Europe Edited by Christoph Brachmann. Brepols, 2019. Pages 121-123.

    Woods-Marsden , Joanna. "Portrait of the Lady, 1430- 1520." Virtue and Beauty: Leonardo's "Ginevra de'Benci" and Renaissance Portraits of Women." Catalog of an exhibition held Sept. 30, 2001-Jan. 6, 2002 at the National Gallery of Art. Edited by David Alan Brown et al.; with contributions by Elizabeth Cropper and Eleonora Luciano. National Gallery of Art in association with Princeton University Press, 2001. Pages 62 - 87.