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Leonardo da Vinci's most beautiful lady

Updated on February 26, 2014
Cecilia Gallerani's portrait
Cecilia Gallerani's portrait

Cecilia Gallerani (1473-1536) was born in Sienna, Italy. She was an educated woman, Ludovico Sforza's favorite mistress. She bore him a son and when she left Sforza's palace, she took her painting with her.

Then she got marry and had other kids. It seems that she did not have an amazing life but just one thing makes her story out of the ordinary, she was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci. "Lady with an ermine" is one of my favourite paintings. I love how the light caressed her skin, the expression on her eyes, the ermine(stoat), the weird looking hair style, the unambitious dress and position of her hands. It's such perfect composition where it's easy to see that Cecilia was a commoner with no other attributes than her beauty and intelligence.

It has been said that there was window on the side and that's the reason why the sitter is so illuminated. Her hair is styled, a "coazone" which confines her hair smoothly to her head with two bands of hair bound to her face and then compressed by thin gauze veil with golden borders.

There are many interpretations of the significance of the ermine on this painting. The main three are:

  1. The white ermine (which is a stoat in winter coat) means purity. This little animals preferred to died to have soil in their coats.
  2. Stoat is technically a weasel and weasels were related to pregnancy in those times. It might mean that Cecilia was pregnant at the time.(she was only 16 then).
  3. Lodovico Sforza, duke of Milan (Cecilia's lover) had ermine in his coats of arms.

Her simple clothes reveal that she is not from any nobility. She came from a large family that were neither noble nor rich. She had only her looks, intelect and her poetry to recommend her.

The outstretched hand has being painted with such a degree of detail that you can see the flexing tendon of her finger, the contour of her fingernails and the wrinkles around her knuckles.

This three-quarter profile portrait is a brilliant example of the innovating mind of Da Vinci. The sitter looks as she is listening to a third party that we can not see but only imagine to be her lover. When I see this painting, I feel that there so much depht on it. It's so delightful to watch this painting and see an unnoticed detail every time.


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    • Green Art profile image

      Laura Ross 

      8 years ago

      This is a very beautiful and intriguing painting by Leonardo da Vinci. I enjoyed reading you description and explanation of it and why you enjoy the piece on a personal level. Art speaks to all of us differently. Like you I often find I see something new when I look at a piece again and again. Voted up and beautiful!

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      8 years ago from Germany

      Beautiful painting. Thanks for the information about this painting and about Leonardo da Vinci. Have a great day!


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