The Beauty of Palma the Elder

The Beauty of Palma the Elder
The Beauty of Palma the Elder

The number of great artists that occurred in Italy during the Renaissance, especially during the Cinquecento, is truly incredible, although in many cases have been overshadowed by the magnitude of geniuses like Leonardo, Miguel Ángel, Rafael orTitian. However, there are extraordinary painters like Palma el Viejo, whose real name was Jacopo Negretti.


The Beauty of Palma the Elder

From the hands of this painter came this portrait of a woman whose identity is unknown, and given her beauty, she is simply known asLa Bella. A work that he made between 1518 and 1520, and which is currently exhibited in the Renaissance painting rooms of theThyssen Bornemisza Museum in Madrid.

From the first look at the work we can tell that it is an exquisite and sumptuous image. It is a representation of a rich, beautiful and also distant woman, haughty one could say, since with her attitude and her gaze she is practically challenging us viewers.

It is a work of sublime color, which is logical as it is an exceptional example of Venetian art. And it is that Palma el Viejo developed his entire career in the city of canals. The color quality of this oil painting is such that for a few years it was even attributed to Titian himself, although that authorship was later ruled out.

We see the woman leaning on a window sill, and on it we see some letters engraved, as if they were part of a hidden message, and that until today no one has been able to decipher. But pictorially, this architectural element serves to frame the young woman's half body.

The precise way in which the light models the figure, and especially her face, is of enormous quality, creating a masterful range of flesh tones. In this way, both the features of her face and her shoulders or her hands stand out for their clarity enveloped by the opulent bright blue and red fabrics. All conjugated to transmit an enormous sensuality. It is as if this painting, and others with similar women, wanted to capture an ideal of beauty typical of those first decades of the 16th century.

And as always happens with the Venetian painting of those years, almost everything originates from the great Tiziano Vezellio, since that type of woman, and more specifically the representation of La Bella de Palma el Viejo, with her wide neckline, the color of her skin, her hairstyle, etc., according to many scholars, I can have as source of inspiration the figures of the work Sacred Love and Profane Love that today is kept in the Borghese Gallery.

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