17th-Century Italian School, Portrait Of A Lady

17th-Century Italian School, Portrait Of A Lady

This early 17th-century portrait depicts a lady wearing an intriguing outfit consisting of a red dress, cloak with a high collar, hat decorated with jewels and pearl necklace.

Tracking down the origins of this piece has been challenging but she’s probably Italian. The top corners display the words FIOR and FVORA (or FUORA), which provide a clue. Fior is a long-established surname with its roots in Bologna, northern Italy. Over the years, numerous variants have emerged such as Fiori, Dal Fiore, Dalla Fior etc, but all can be traced back to the same region.

The inclusion of the word FVORA or FUORA is unclear as it translates from Italian as ‘outside’ or ‘stolen’ from Latin. But Fiora is also another variant of the surname Fior, so it could be another reference to lineage. During the 16th century, Guido Sforza di Santa Fiora (Guido Sforza of Santa Fiora) was a powerful figure due to his link with Pope Paul III and as such helped his relatives to achieve powerful positions. Indeed, Costanza Sforza of Santa Fiora (1550-1617) married into the wealthy House of Boncompagni. Here's a portrait for comparison, do you see any family resemblance?

Costanza Sforza of Santa Fiora

Her unusual outfit fits broadly with the Italian styles of the early 17th century. The collar is based upon the ‘Medici collar’, which was made popular by Marie de’ Medici. It’s essentially a ruff with a high back. However, examples of the hat are tricky to locate and we’ve found just the one similar item from an early 17th-century portrait in Denmark.

So in conclusion, our best guess is that this lady is part of a line that originated in Bologna and she’s perhaps related to a family from Santa Fiora. The portrait dates to around 1630.

Held in a beautiful Cassetta frame.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 28½” x 38” / 73cm x 96cm
Year of creation: c. 1630
Condition: Artwork presents well. Craquelure but the paint is stable. Canvas relined. Later stretcher. Retouches. Frame with some light wear.

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