Sunday, January 22, 2012

La Bella

Today we went to the Portland Art Museum to see Titian's La Bella. The painting has never been exhibited in the US and Portland is her only west coast appearance. How lucky are we? I was surprised how much I remembered from college art history days. I was telling my husband about the details of the painting, and we turned around and pretty much everything I said was on the big description board behind us. Doh! But at least I got it all right. :) The painting is absolutely gorgeous. The brushwork is amazing - from the tiny almost invisible delicate ones on her face to the loose, sketchy ones giving life to her hair and the embroidery on her dress. I love how the lacy edges of her neckline are so diaphanous. Those velvet sleeves really do look like velvet too. Those fluffy white dots are where the velvet was slashed and ermine pulled through as a decorative element. The sleeves are detachable, and would have been hugely expensive back then. She is wearing earrings that would have been very trendy for the time. They look like ruby with pearl dangles.  She's holding a string of hollow metal beads that would have had perfume in them. People didn't bathe much, and Venice could be a bit odiferous as well. Hmm. Reminds me of spraying extra perfume on my scarf before riding TriMet. How things change?

Unfortunately, in this picture, you can't see the frame. The frame is a work of art all be itself and is the original one commissioned for the painting. A friend of Titian carved it to match. It is a giant, gold, heavy frame close to a foot wide. the border closest to the painting is acanthus leaves alternating with a 5 petal flower. For a frame so large and heavy, the curve of the acanthus and the delicacy of the flowers give it a lighter impression. The middle border was pierced with long ovals radiating away from the portrait. The piercing also lightens the heaviness of the frame. The outside edge was also carved, but apparently didn't make quite the impression that the flowers and leaves did. The whole effect though was grand, expensive and very feminine, much like La Bella herself.

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