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Lady with an Ermine

An exhibition hosted at: Palazzo del Quirinale, Rome - Brera Art Gallery, Milan - Pitti Palace, Florence
Open from: October 15 1998 - January 24 1999

Some features of the elegant dress the Lady wears come from the Spanish fashion, which became particularly trendy in Milan after the marriages of Isabella d'Aragona and Beatrice d'Este had strengthened the relationships between the dukedom and the Neapolitan court.

The cloak that wraps one of her shoulders is called sbernia and is made of precious trimmed silk. It derives from a Spanish garment called bernia

The coiffure, which was called coazone in Milan, had been already known by Spanish noblemen since the '70s. It is realized with two large hair bands adorning the face, which then form a long braided tail. The hair is gathered together inside a precious bonnet and the tail inside a sort of sheath called the tranzado.

In the portrait by Leonardo the hair is gathered together inside a precious transparent silky bonnet with a border appearing under a sort of ribbon (the lencia) level with her eyebrows.

The dress of the lady has a quadrangular plunging neckline with golden embroideries.

Her only jewel is a necklace, with round beads made of black amber or semi-precious stone, such as agate or onyx, or even of a sweet-smelling paste, maybe bearing a symbolic meaning.

The distinctive feature of her dress is the great moderation, very different from the pomp and showing-off typical of many other portraits of ladies at that time of the Sforza. This could be seen as a homage to her youth or as the Renaissance obsession for seeing a relation between clothes and social status. The lady, in fact, was not of a noble origin.

We also have the list of Cecilia Gallerani's trousseau, which was prepared in 1492, on the occasion of her marriage with count Ludovico Bergamini. It includes a collection of 15 precious sbernias.

Press release
Highlights of the exhibition
Who was Cecilia Gallerani
Formal meanings and iconography
Preservations and scientific examinations
The story of the painting in the Czartoryski collection
The Lady with an Ermine and portraits in the period between the XV century and XVI century in Milan
Leonardo Da Vinci: biography


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