Lady with an Ermine - Leonardo da Vinci. 1489 - 1490
This painting is one of four famous female portraits belonging to the brush of Leonardo. Even if you do not delve into the numerous theories about the belonging of the Renaissance titanium to various secret societies, the picture itself gives a large number of references to various associations and puns.
This canvas has suffered quite a lot from numerous restorations and repairs. After research by modern methods, it was found that under the current image there are several more that belong to Leonardo’s brush. Among them there is an option where there is no ermine in the picture at all, and one where instead of this the animal in the lady’s hands has some smaller gray animal. There are also facts confirming that the original background of the painting was blue, and then the image of the door or window behind the left shoulder of the female figure disappeared from it.
Presumably, the painting depicts one of the lovers of the Duke of Sforz Cecilia Gallerani, but there is no exact documentary evidence of this fact. An indirect argument is considered to be a pun in the name of the animal and the surname of the heroine of the portrait, as well as in the coincidence of the heraldic symbol on the coat of arms of Sforza with the ermine in the hands of the lady. However, there is no confirmation that the picture shows really an ermine, and not a marten, a white furo ferret or even “flea fur” - a scarecrow designed to protect its mistress from attack by insects.
This picture is one of the most beautiful female portraits. Characteristic of Leonardo, a three-quarter turn of the head allows viewers to admire the exceptional beauty of the lady's face. She is dressed in the fashion adopted at that time - a cap of transparent fabric on the forehead is picked up by a special decoration - a ferronier, her dark hair is flowed under her chin, combed smoothly and create a kind of frame for a gentle face with soft features. The lady has a fashionable dress with a large square neckline and split multi-layer sleeves. A double string of black pearls adorns the neck and a beautiful smooth line of shoulders.
A feature of the portrait is the image of hands. For artists, this has always been considered a great difficulty, but Leonardo with his vast knowledge of anatomy masterly coped with such work. The hands of Cecilia amaze with their subtlety and grace. The gesture with which she touches the animal’s fur coat is refined and unusually sensual. The animal, with pleasure from the touch of the hostess, like a domestic cat, fingers and releases sharp claws.
The composition of the picture is also unusual. The rotation of the head and the direction of the views of both the woman and the animal make it possible to imagine that at the time of the creation of the picture their attention was distracted by something located on the side of them. This technique creates the illusion of an accurate, almost photographic capture of the moment.
The color of the picture, as always with Leonardo, is rich and nobly restrained. However, numerous records do not allow to fully appreciate the original intent of the creator.