La Bella was first owned by Francesco Maria I della Rovere, Duke of Urbino, a mercenary military leader who commanded the armies of Florence, the Papal States, and later the Republic of Venice. In May 1536 the duke sent a letter to his agent in Venice inquiring about the progress of “the portrait of that woman in a blue dress,” whose completion he eagerly awaited. The painting in question was doubtless La Bella, which is today in the collection of the Galleria Palatina in Florence. The canvas has been cleaned recently, and the removal of discolored varnish has revealed the splendor of the woman’s blue dress, painted with costly ultramarine, and the luminosity of her flesh.
As the reference to “that portrait of that woman in a blue dress” suggests, La Bella remains anonymous and is just that—a beautiful woman. Indeed, her classicism features conform to a physical type that Titian developed some years earlier, which argues against any attempt to recognize a particular individual. This paragon of beauty is a demonstration of Titian’s brilliance as a painter, his genius for creating poetic images of loveliness.
For more exhibits in the Fort Worth Cultural District and other Things To Do in Fort Worth this summer, click here.