Created on February 3, 2019
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Ginevra de Benci
She is painted in front of a Juniper tree which is a slight pun, as "ginepro" the Italian word for juniper, suggests her name. In the distance, there are more trees and an expanse of water. Da Vinci creates a misty effect in the background using overlaid oil glazes to create his hazy sky.
One of Leonardo's earlier works completed while he was apprenticed to Andrea Verrocchio in his Florentine workshop. Here, Leonardo learned a variety of skills that he would master later on in his career. Although this painting is rather traditional, it includes details such as Ginevra's curling hair that only Leonardo could achieve.
The reverse side of the Portrait.On the back of this painting is another painting from Leonardo da Vinci, calledWreath of Laurel,Palm, and Juniper. It shows a juniper sprig, with a circular arrangement of palm and laurel around it. It also includes the inscription “Virtutem Forma Decorat”, which means “beauty adorns virtue.”
Her left eye seems to gaze directly at us while the right looks beyond to some invisible point. Like most women of her time, Ginevra has her eyebrows shaved. Her curly hair falls in golden locks over the sides of her face, and her clothing is portrayed in its minimum details, down to the golden button on her gown and the golden filigrees which border the cleavage of her dress.
In the background is where Da Vinci’s technical innovation shines, for he obscures the entire background employing the sfumato technique which, even though it was not his creation, was perfected by the master. Other innovative aspects of this painting are the pose, as the three-quarters pose was still not commonly used for portraits.
Leonardo's portrait was cut down at the bottom sometime in the past by as much as one-third. Presumably the lower section would have shown her hands, possibly folded or crossed, resting in her lap. It has been suggested that it may have been the study for the hands.
She is wearing a brown dress with blue laces and gold edges, and a black scarf. Below the dress she wears a subtle white blouse with a golden pin.
Ginevra de’ Benci (born in 1457 or 1458) was the daughter of a wealthy Florentine banker. She was considered to be one of the most intellectual people of her time and was a poet.
Portrait of Ginevra de' Benci was painted around 1474-1476. It is oil on wood and measures 42 x 37 cm. It is now owned by National Gallery of Art, Washington.