La Fornarina - by Raphael

Raphael also painted a very personal portrait La Fornarina around 1517. The painting shows that Raphael had achieved total mastery of the use of light and color. Turning to her left, a half-naked woman is sitting against a background of dense foliage in the pose of the classical Venus pudica. As in that figure type, she is holding one hand modestly over her breast, while the other is lying on her lap. In fact, of course, these gestures only make the viewer more aware of the beautiful subjects charms. At the same time the index finger of her right hand points unobtrusively - yet unmistakably - to a bangle on her upper arm, bearing the inscription: RAPHAEL URBINAS.

Unlike the double portraits, this picture has been painted in delicate glazes on wood. Radiographic examination has revealed that the background was initially laid out as a landscape view. The inscription on the arm-bangle was also changed from its original form, RAPHAEL URBS. Today, there is some doubt about the authenticity of this painting on stylistic grounds. Nevertheless, the transparent veil with a few powerfully touched-in highlights, the delicate gradation of the soft skin, and the superbly painted turban-like head-dress are all worthy of Raphael. He may well have completed the painting around 1515What is doubtful is whether Raphael would have signed the work so conspicuously if it had been intended for him or his lover. His other friendship portraits are not signed, and in his late works signatures generally appear only if the pictures had left Rome or if his studio had been involved in a painting's execution. But in that case, it is not at all clear for which collector the portrait was intended.