Portrait of Isabella d’Este

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Even as the century progressed, the profile portrait remained the preferred format among the upper classes because of its obvious classicizing tenor; it signaled to the beholder that the person was fully au courant with ancient art.

A typical example is Leonardo’s portrait of Isabelle d’Este, executed around 1500 in either Venice or Mantua. Though at this point Leonardo’s portrait style was already fully developed, with a posture and placement of the hands that clearly anticipate the Mona Lisa, the lady’s face is rigorously turned away so that she can present herself en profil. Not surprisingly, Isabelle had a large collection of Roman coins; she even asked the artist Gian Cristoforo Romano to create several medals with her likeness in profile.



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