Sculpted a bust in profile facing left, with the clear-breathing monumental figure silhouetted and inscribed with geometric perfection on the bottom shelf of a round plate with a thick veined marble, the effigy of this sophisticated lady probably qualifies as a dynastic portrait , the identity of which we can imagine declared in origin by an inscription dashed gold along the edge.
The sculptor, in fact, within a raised circle in imitation of a coin, delineates with measured physiognomic significance and solemn intonation, facial features, emphasizing the icy gaze absorbed nobility of character, and describes with particular attention to the wealth of princely clothes and ornaments, perhaps once adorned with gold highlights; the bodice that laced in marble pretends velvet embroidered with fine foliate scroll motifs and rosettes reverse spiral of taste 'neoattico', repeated with more performance wrapped in palm leaves and terminations headset profile by a border of lozenges, worn tightly at the throat as if to enhance the liveliness of thick lock of hair twisted beyond flowing along the temples, and the exquisite necklace with diskettes, carved with the rigor and evidence of a marquetry perspective.
Built with a specific intent to appeal to the ancient greek-roman world, this type of portraiture was a genre very popular and widespread in the Italian courts where the interest in classicism had become more imitative and archaeological connotations. In species where the Lombard area 'imagines clipeatae' knew an extraordinary revival, already promoted by Filaret, through the marble medallions with portraits of the Caesars, historical, biblical and mythological entered by Giovanni Antonio Amadeo and Mantegazza on the facade of the monastery of Pavia (1473-1499) that were the most important and spectacular assemblage of marble profiles, described in 1480 by the Florentine Giovanni Ridolfi as "antique heads of marble inspired of medals." This decorative fashion was adopted by the Sforza as preferred solution for deploying and dynastic portraits of court within architectures, portals and monuments telling sign of a propensity antique civilizations that developed in Lombardy in the sign of a close dialogue with the ancient world, which the end of the fifteenth century will give a radical change in the classical sense of the sculpture course.
Among the most eloquent and useful to contextualize the work in question, even for the formal results, we can remember the portraits of the dukes and duchesses of the dynasty of Milan of the Visconti and Sforza in 1497 embedded in the two portals of the Old Sacristy and the Lavabo dei Monaci in the Certosa di Pavia, first reported by sources to Benedetto Briosco, others to Gian Cristoforo Romano, probably author also of the effigies of men. Among the specimens erratic made celebratory and probably, like ours, originally intended for an architectural or monumental, we report the medallion of Ludovico il Moro, formerly in the collection of Vienna Weinberger published in 1927 by Adolfo Venturi as the work of Cristoforo Solari, the effigies of Galeazzo Maria Sforza and Ludovico il Moro, at the National Gallery in Washington with a plausible reference to Briosco, and the portrait of the Genovese prior Acellino Salvago , now at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, carved by Antonio della Porta called Il Tamagnino.
A similar dating of the late fifteenth century of our elegant medallion - already in New York in the prestigious collection of Armand ERPF spouses, educated financier and philanthropist, and Sue van de Bovenkamp, cosmopolitan artist who had designed for Valentino in Rome and starred in the film "the sweet life" - is also suggested from clothing in remarkable harmony with the fashion of the time, as indicated by the hair parted in the middle with a bipartite flow that leaves the hair on the sides of the face, the elaborately decorated bonnet well back on the head, the corset dress with a neckline that opens wide shoulders, very deep on the lower back but not on his chest, where it is refined by a high embroidered border.
As for the character portrayed, such a time span may enable us, also because of the acute physiognomic characteristics, a possible identification with Bona di Savoia (Avigliana 1449 - Fossano 1503), married in 1468 the Duke of Milan, Galeazzo Maria Sforza and at his early death , in 1476, regent of the duchy until 1480, when the government was taken by the brother Ludovico il Moro; that caused her to leave the court for a secluded life in the castle of Abbiategrasso, interrupted by participation in major public events such as weddings of her sons Gian Galeazzo (1490) and Bianca Maria (1493), which was followed by a voluntary exile in France, in Tours and Lyon, between 1495 and 1499, and later in Savoy, in the keeping of Fossano, from 1500 to her death. The effigy of the youth Bona coined in silver at the time of her reign (1476-80), the more mature profile marble of the Certosa di Pavia (1497), the portrait that appears in an anonymous table today in the Museum of Castello Sforzesco and the posthumously painted by Bernardino Luini in a bezel also in the Castello Sforzesco (1522-26) reveal similar traits in fact, characterized by the shape of the neck, broad and stout, from which stands out prominently rounded chin, narrow mouth with lip more pronounced, her thick, always collecting in a bonnet adorned.
The relevance of the medallion to the Lombard environment around the early nineties, as suggested by typological and iconographic considerations expressed above, is fully confirmed in the formal features, the excellent state of preservation allows us to fully appreciate, also revealing a probable original location in a protected environment, although perhaps outside, as the arcade of the courtyard of a building, since the surface at the top of the head is slightly washed out.
The beautiful sleeve, gathered by a cord, which protrudes outward with strong plastic sense, is, in fact, the trend crumpled paper and sharp creases of a sort of unmistakable symbol of the Lombard fifteenth century so there is still throbbing, in a detail of costume, led the figurative amadeesca but combined here with the latest Lombard manner expressed in soft, full-bodied influence hair combed in a tight weave, or the virtuous of the corset cuff, where thin and supple outstanding slush embroidery work on fabric.
New and unique in this noble image, free from harshness and loaded accents expressive of local tradition, yet sensitive in transition as a sculptor Benedetto Briosco, the plasticity is particularly strong, stiff, the ability to idealize the naturalism required by the purpose portraiture rarefaction and concentrated composition that qualify it as an eloquent expression of the most stately classicism that emerged in the last decade of the century, mainly by Gian Cristoforo Romano.
Son of Isaia da Pisa, Gian Cristoforo was formed in Rome "in the worship of the ancient", collaborating with Andrea Lombardo Bregno who had marked the artistic scene of the City with a measured classicism and technical sophistication of an elegant decorative repertoire, and then move to Milan, where Ludovico il Moro in 1491 gave him the portrait of his young wife Beatrice d'Este, now in the Louvre, and the magnificent tomb of Gian Galeazzo Visconti in the Certosa di Pavia (1491-97), and finally settling, the 1497, the court of Mantua, Isabella d'Este particularly popular as a medalist, portrait painter and connoisseur of antiquities, stay interrupted by commitments in Venice (1502), Bologna (1504), Rome (1505, 1510), Naples (1507) and Loreto (1510).
The work under review, a quality worthy of the attributive reference to Gian Cristoforo Romano proposed here, is effective against Milan in the activity of the artist, from the famous portrait of Beatrice d'Este, which denotes the same concept of the plastic volume , firm and concise, and the same vein, portraiture, where the data appears natural heraldically frozen, with an eye to the style of clothing, qualified by the same technique in the return of the textile weave, decorated with thick embroidery of classic taste, and of hairstyle, inspired by the freedom of a few strands that break the orderly arrangement of the hair.
The terse fullness of the face, characterized by facial features essential yet penetrating, and the ductus smooth hair are also found in the monument to Gian Galeazzo, both in the robust Madonna and Child, in Virtue and cherubim, that stand in the spandrels of time, as well in other testimony of the appreciate portraiture activity of the sculptor, whom the three sachets of marble boy now in the Galleria Franchetti in Venice Ca'd'Oro, Staatliche Museen in Berlin and the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
Particularly pertinent, then, are the most reliable points of contact with the testimony of experience in Ganti marble portrait in profile - a type supported by its significant commitment as a medalist in 1495 and the Committee of " alquante teste piccoline marmoree de imperator romani " for a wealthy French - that is, the ideal portrait of the leader Capilliata Colleoni kept at the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris; in the same clear definition of the profile, the ability to suggest the projection of the volumes with basic graphics solutions, the lock that escapes from the helmet, and especially in the elegant decorative style characterized by thin, flexible motifs proceeding as a spiral.