Pier Francesco Cittadini, known as the Milanese (Milan, 1616 - Bologna, 1681) attributed
Portrait of the Marquise Elena Alessandra Malvezzi (born in 1627), at the age of 35, with her Cavalier King
It bears the heraldic coat of arms of the Malvezzi family at the top right
Inscription with the name of the portrayed Alexandra Mal (vezzi) and dating from the year of the domains MDCLXI, year 1661
Oil painting on canvas
76 x 52 cm., in antique frame 95 x 79 cm.
The painting, of unquestionable quality, is attributed to Pier Francesco Cittadini, known as the Milanese for his hometown, who after an initial training moved to Bologna where he had great fortune and where it is presumed that he portrayed our portrayed, the young Marquise Elena Alessandra Malvezzi. The work bears, at the top right, the noble coat of arms of the family, the inscription with her name and the year of execution (the woman was therefore around 35 years old).
It is therefore a very precious document, which presents the noblewoman immortalized in the opulence of her dress and distinguished by an aristocratic bearing, as a member of one of the most influential noble families of Bologna.
Precious because only one other painting is known in which we find Alessandra Malvezzi portrayed, and precisely the great 'Family Portrait' *, executed around 1645, kept in their historic home, the Malvezzi-Campeggi Castle or Rocca Sforzesca di Dozza (Bologna) ; this work, also attributed to Cittadini, sees immortalized, in addition to the Marquis Carlo Filippo Malvezzi (1595 - 1665) and his wife Ginevra Barbieri (-1692), all the numerous descendants of their nine children , including Alessandra, the eldest and therefore portrayed almost eighteen years old, taking a book from her mother's hands.
Returning with attention to our painting, the marquise is portrayed with a sumptuous dress according to the typical fashion of the time, which celebrates her aristocratic elegance, while with her right hand she touches the jewel brooch placed at the height of the breast and with the left holds his little Cavalier King. The canvas may have been commissioned on the occasion of her wedding, since the presence of the pet had a precise meaning: since the dog's fidelity is such a well-known characteristic, it at the same time declared the virtues of the woman.
The portrait takes up the typical iconographic layout of Cittadini's Lombard-Emilian portraiture, in which the painter does not stick to mere physiognomic reproduction, but also pays attention to gestures, corresponding to a real symbolic code: a woman's hand holds the dog, already mentioned as a symbol of fidelity, the other touches the pendant pearl of the jewel, a symbol of love in its fullness, of innocence. Even the shape of her dress, with a veil that reaches around her neck, alludes to the lady's modesty and her purity.
The painting in question testifies to all the qualities attributed to the artist, synthesizing the austerity of the realism of the Lombard tradition of the seventeenth century, with the refinement of the Emilian world represented by Cesare and Benedetto Gennari, without neglecting the elegance and sumptuousness of a traditional image. Roman, Venetian and Flemish.
Finally, it is worth mentioning the meticulous sartorial description with which the author defined the fabrics of the garments, of his rich ivory silk dress with brocade motifs, coral embroideries forming carnation motifs, and skilful gold highlights typical of high fashion. 'seventeenth-century, also recognizable in the wide shape of the sleeves with a high edge gathered in the crease of the elbow and in the lace band that surrounds the shoulders.
The painting is completed by an antique frame in gilded wood.
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