Lot 5
  • 5

STUDIO OF ALESSANDRO ALLORIFLORENCE 1535 - 1607 | Portrait of Camilla Martelli (circa 1545-1590)

Estimate
30,000 - 50,000 EUR
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Description

  • Portrait of Camilla Martelli (circa 1545-1590)
  • Oil on panel
  • 60 x 46,8 cm ; 23 1/2  by 18 1/2  in.

Provenance

Acquired by the grandfather of the current owners in the 1920s in Montpellier ;
Thence by descent to the present owners.

Literature

K. Langendijk, The Portraits of the Medici, 15th-18th Century, Florence 1981-1987, vol. III, p. 1540, no. 36.1b;
S. Lecchini Giovannoni, Alessandro Allori, Turin 1991, p. 308, no. 205 (as Workshop of Alessandro Allori, Portrait of Eleonora di Piero di Cosimo).

Catalogue Note

Executed on a thick panel on the back of which is the label of an old French sale identifying the painter as Bronzino and the model as Eleanora Gonzaga, wife of the Duke of Urbino, Francesco della Rovere – two hypotheses which must be discarded – this beautiful portrait more likely depicts Camilla Martelli, the second wife of Cosimo I de' Medici.

Of obviously high quality, it can be attributed to the workshop of Alessandro Allori, without excluding the possibility that the master himself may have been involved. Alessandro Allori was himself one of the most gifted and prolific pupils of Bronzino, whose adoptive son he also was, perpetuating the manner of his master in the field of portraiture up to the end of the sixteenth century.

The sitter's importance is confirmed by the existence of several similar versions (sometimes with a few variants) of comparable quality. Four were catalogued by Karla Langendijk in 1981 (K. Langendijk, The Portraits of the Medici, 15th-18th Century, Florence 1981-1987, vol. I, pp. 709-716), who considered them to be portraits of Eleonora de' Medici (1553-1576), known as Dianora, the niece and adopted daughter of Grand Duke Cosimo I. Several other versions have subsequently reappeared, including the present work.

The debate over the exact identity of the model has continued with several different hypotheses put forward, from Eleonora of Toledo or Margherita Gonzaga (1591-1632) to Catherine de' Medici (1519-1589) or even Marie de' Medici (1573-1642).

However, thanks to the necklace worn by the sitter in some of the portraits (including this one), the identity of the model can be more precisely established. This necklace in fact belonged to Camilla Martelli (1545-1590), daughter of Antonio Martelli, who married Cosimo I de' Medici in 1570, after having conceived by him a daughter, Virginia, born 29 May 1568 out of wedlock but legitimised at the moment of her parents' marriage. This set of jewels is described in detail in the inventory of jewels belonging to Camilla drawn up following the death of Cosimo I in 1574 (on this subject, see Costanza Contu, in the exhibition catalogue I gioielli dei Medici, Florence, Palazzo Pitti 2003, p. 202). It reappeared in 1576, by which time the necklace belonged to Virginia, her mother having been disgraced following the death of her husband and sent to a convent. The present portrait (and thus its other versions) can therefore only represent Camilla or her daughter Virginia.

One other element, neglected up until now, has recently corroborated the identification of the portrait's sitter as Camilla. An engraving by Filippo Morghen (1730-around 1807) after a drawing by Giuseppe Zocchi (1711-1767) (fig. 1) seems to reconfirm that the sitter is Camilla and not her daughter Virginia. In it we find repeated the facial features of this portrait, with the strong, straight nose, the hairstyle ornamented with pearls, and of course the famous necklace. This engraving (as well as several others) was part of a series executed around 1750 and published by Giuseppe Allegrini to complete an earlier series of thirty-two portraits of members of the Medici family executed by Adriaen Haelwegh (1639-1700). In the same second series is a portrait of Virginia, examination of which excludes the possibility that she is the model for the work presented here.
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