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Venice 2014

The Capable Eleonora Gonzaga

Portrait of Eleonora Gonzaga della Rovere

Portrait of Eleonora Gonzaga della Rovere

Titian (Tiziano Vecellio), 1536-1538,

Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence,

oil on canvas, 114x103 cm


Another example of Titian’s ability to turn portraits into reflections of the subject’s everyday life is his Portrait of Eleonora Gonzaga della Rovere painted in 1536. In this portrait, Eleonora, the Duchess of Urbino, is shown seated in a domestic setting, dressed in an elaborate gown of black and gold. The portrait is a ¾ length depiction and the figure is in the ¾ pose, with her gaze towards the viewer. The mood in the portrait is subdued and almost relaxed.

Eleonora’s elaborate black and gold gown, as well as the multitude of jewels that she wears, are all meant to symbolize the power and prestige of the della Rovere family. There is a hilly landscape showing through the open window which could symbolize the view around Urbino. The dog and the clock on the table could be references to Eleonora’s temperance, fidelity and loyalty. [7]  The figure’s sharp gaze is directed straight towards the viewer. The duchess, contrary to convention, is not portrayed as a young girl or bride. Rather, she is shown as an older, perhaps middle aged woman, with a knowing gaze that conveys sense and intelligence. Titian captures Eleonora Gonzaga in a way that reflects her personality and the sphere of her power. She is depicted as a sharp, intelligent woman whose world revolves around the domestic sphere. The artist incorporates symbols that represent traits that were part of the period’s feminine ideal into the work, but does not allow them to detract from Eleonora’s personality, which shines through her gaze. The portrait forms a picture of a capable woman who is educated and intelligent in her own right.

[7] Filippo Pedrocco. Titian. trans. Corrado Federici  (New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 2001), 161