Portrait of Lucrezia Bentivoglio Leoni
Ludovico Carracci (1555-1619)
1589, Oil on canvas
This sumptuous painting, a masterpiece of portraiture by Ludovico Carracci, bears the date in Roman numerals on the brocade covering the table, under the coat of arms of the Leoni-Bentivoglio family. An inscription on the back of the canvas reads: “Sig.ra Lucretia Bentivogli Consorte del sig.r Girolamo / Leoni morse l'ano 1592 et nello XXX della / Sua ettà” ("Sig.ra Lucretia Bentivogli Consort of Sig.r Girolamo / Leoni died in the year 1592 in her thirtieth year"). We therefore know the name and sad fate of this melancholic and unfortunate lady: only three years after having posed for this portrait, Lucretia is said to have died, probably of a respiratory illness, as evidenced by the faintly red-stained handkerchief. The use of colour is eloquent: the vibrant black of the dress contrasts admirably with the red of the skirt and the luminous white of the blouse and ruff. With this work, Ludovico declares himself a master for his cousins and the young people who flocked to the Accademia degli Incamminati founded by the three Carracci the year before: the young woman's absorbed expression, veiled in sadness, makes this portrait an extraordinary masterpiece.