Andrea del Brescianino
PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG WOMAN HOLDING A BOOK
SN 25, oil on panel
From "The Pages".
Andrea di Giovannantonio di Tommaso di Piccinelli (called Andrea del Brescianino) was born
in 1487, in Siena. He may have been trained by Girolamo del Pacchia. In Florence (1525) he
came under the influence of Raphael, Bartolomeo, & da Vinci. His Virgin and Child with
Two Saints shows this early influence, both in colors and close figure groupings. Apart
from a short visit to Rome (c1516) to assist Peruzzi with the decoration of Villa
Farnesina, most of his time was spent in Siena.
In the late 1520s he seems to have had a studio with his brother Raffaello. Although the
latter also painted, the few altarpieces are attributed to Andrea.
His style is consistent & shows a relationship with early 16th c Sienese school,
especially with Girolamo Pacchia & Domenico Becafumi. Later the main link is with Fra
Bartolomeo & Andrea del Sarto
even Puligo & Raphael. His colors and
compositional ideas are mostly from Sarto.
Renaissance portraits often illustrated, through costume and jewelry, the newly-gained
wealth of families grown rich through international trading and banking.
This waist-length portrait depicts a pensive young woman holding an open book in her hand.
She wears a linen chemise under colorful, rich clothing; there is a thick gold chain
around her neck and rings on her fingers. Her huge, puffy sleeves may have been
detachable, as it was the custom to make them usable with more than one outfit. (Sometimes
they were elaborately decorated with jeweled embroidery.)
The sitters accomplishments and aspirations were also suggested, and it is
significant that she holds a book, alluding to her education. (Reference the elaborate
prayer book of Ann of Cleves.) The skills of reading and writing were taught to girls,
both privately and in town schools.
The presentation is strikingly dramatic, with its plain dark background. (The same stiff
drapery folds are also found in Brescianinos St. Catherine painting.) There is a
Manneristic expression in the face of the girl, while the chiseled, sculptural modeling of
the face is very like Andrea del Sartos Venus and Two Amorini. The suppression of
extraneous detail is also typically Mannerist. We still have the Renaissance attitude in
lack of direct communication, however.
This work has been previously attributed to Sarto, Pontormo, and finally after some study
by Suida, to Brescianino.
Ventura, A. Storia dellArte Italiana, in La Pittura del Cinquecento,
1932, Vol IX/5 , pp 357-373
Freedburg, SJ Painting in Italy, 1500-1600. 1936, p101
Zen, Frederico Italian Paintings in the Walters Art Gallery. 1976, pp 346-47
Duval, Cynthia Medieval and Renaissance Splendor: Arms & Armor from the Higgins
Museum, Worcester, MA and Works of Art from the John & Mable Ringling
Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida. 1984
Costamagna, Philippe Pontormo :Ritratto di Giovana Donna. 1994, p 323