Lavinia or Emilia?


This portrait housed at the Prado Museum, Madrid, intrigued me instantly - although at first it was merely because of the gorgeous fabric used for the sleeves. I never expected to find a little mystery lurking in the murky depths....

Browsing online one day I found a very long but just as interesting article on fakes and frauds in the art galleries of the world. Reading further I read that not only does the author doubt the artist who painted this lady was Veronese, (his research leads him to believe it was painted by Titian's son, Orazio Vecellio) he also states that she is not Lavinia Vecellio, daughter of the great Venetian artist Titian (Tiziano Vecellio di Gregorio). According to the author, Titian had two daughters, not one: Lavinia and Emilia. Lavinia was the elder of the two and died in childbirth in 1561. He states that this portrait is actually of Emilia, on whom I have found no further information so far.


The author concurs that this next portrait, housed in the Dresden Gallery, Dresden, is indeed a portrait of Lavinia. He states that the way to tell is to look at the eye colour. Lavinia has brown eyes, while Emilia has blue. This made me really curious, so I took both portraits and enlarged the eyes so that the colouration was more apparent. Here are the very interesting results....

First the Dresden Lavinia:

And the Prado Lavinia:

Despite the differences in resolution I'm satisfied that the Dresden Lavinia has brown eyes, while the Prado Lavinia definitely has lighter eyes - although I don't think they are me they look green.

So if this was indeed a younger daughter Emilia, it would explain the clothing. Trying to date the portrait I kept stumbling over the fact that Lavinia died in 1561. Comparing the women and clothing both portraits it is easy to see the differences. Leaving aside the subject of hair colour (which could be changed at will in the Renaissance), in the Prado portrait Lavinia is a much younger-looking woman than the Dresden portrait. The Prado "Lavinia" wears a dress that has much more of a dropped waistline - this indicates a later fashion, and her partlet is a much fancier criss-cross embroidery style seen in later paintings. It is also unusual to see sleeves of a different colour to the dress during this period. Sleeves of patterned fabric but same colour were seen during the mid sixteenth century, but I have only seen gowns with different colour sleeves in the 1595 costume album "Album Amicorum of a German Soldier" at LACMA. My dating of the portrait of circa the early 1580s was based on all evidence I had to hand, but since discovering, on further research, that Orazio Vecellio died in 1576, it makes me doubt my previous estimate. A much more conservative dating would be 1570 - 85, which allows for the original attribution as a portrait by Veronese, who died in 1588. My tendency is to agree with the original attibution of this painting to Veronese, and date it circa 1585.

Irrespective of who painted it and when, this is a gorgeous outfit, the gown of which looks to be made from stamped velvet and red/gold brocade sleeves. I sure would love to learn more about the mysterious Emilia.......



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