Lorenzo Lotto
Portrait of Laura da Pola

c. 1543–1544
canvas; 90 × 75 cm
Inscription: Laurent. Loto p. (at bottom right)
Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera, Reg. Cron, 373

Lorenzo Lotto made portraits of Laura di Pola and her husband Febo da Brescia during his second stay in Treviso. Both paintings were acquired by the Pinacoteca di Brera in 1859 and are identifiable as the two paintings recorded as being commissioned by Febo da Brescia in Lorenzo Lotto’s accounts book between April 1543 and May 1544 (Libro di Spese diverse, ff. 40v–41r, ed. in Lorenzo Lotto 2003, II, pp. 62–63). The couple were both members of extremely rich and powerful families, one from Brescia and the other from Istria, which moved to Treviso in the fourteenth century. The two canvases were displayed in their owners’ luxurious houses in Treviso, which were probably designed by the Lombardo studio, before the buildings were pulled down in the early nineteenth century (E. Dezuanni, in Lorenzo Lotto 2011, pp. 234–237, nos. 46a–b, with bibliography). Laura was twenty-three in 1543 and is shown with her left arm resting on a prie-dieu. She is wearing an extremely elegant dress and holds an ostrich feather fan with a gold handle and chain in her right hand. A ruby ring seems to be an allusion to its power to ensure fortune in love and social standing. In her other hand Laura holds a small book, which the profane nature of the painting suggests might be a small edition of Petrarch rather than a prayer book, as was once thought. This small collection of Petrarch’s sonnets testifies to the great success enjoyed by this small format made famous by the Aldine editions at the beginning of the century. At the same time, the small Petrarch helps provide the image of a high-ranking woman, while at the same time suggesting a demeanor of easy familiarity with which the viewer can identify (Macola 2007, pp. 138–139, 205–207, no. 20). The soberness of the details and restrained palette, set against the stress placed on the psychological insight displayed in the facial features are typical of Lotto’s late work.

Sergio Momesso