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Lady revealing her Breast
Tintoretto, Domenico
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Tintoretto, Domenico

Venice (Italy), 1560 - Venice, 1635

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Lady revealing her Breast

1580 - 1590. Oil on canvas.
Room 044

This depiction of an honest courtesan, presents an iconography of increasing interest to art historians in recent decades. With her curly blond hair, bare forehead and pearl necklace, as well as the breast she so generously offers the viewer, the model recalls a young woman whose mother sought to introduce her into the business of high-level prostitution, as described by Veronica Franco (1546-1591), in Lettere familiari a divesi (Venice 1580). In fact, it has been suggested that the woman depicted here is Veronica Franco herself. The most celebrated Venetian courtesan of the second half of the 16th century, she possessed a beauty that was matched by her considerable culture and a notable literary talent evidenced by her poetic works -Terze rime (1575-) and prose- the previously mentioned Lettere. During her lifetime, Franco was famed for her beauty, her literary gifts and her participation in the culminating moment in the history of Renaissance courtesans: her relations with Henry III of France during his brief sojourn in Venice in 1574. She is known to have been portrayed by Domenico Tintoretto’s father, Jacopo, and her knowledge of art allowed her to participate in debates on the merits of ancient and modern artists. These quarrels were quite renowned in Venetian art circles at that time. There are no confirmed portraits of Veronica Franco, with the exception of the engraved frontispiece for her Terze rime, but the so-called Portrait of Veronica Franco at the Worcester Art Museum is generally accepted, and its similarity to the present work is evident. While the painter drew on a model, the work maintains the stereotypes for such images, generically known as Venetians in 16th and 17th-century inventories.

Whether it depicts Veronica Franco or not, this work is also interesting for its pose. Unlike other images of courtesans, who generally look directly at the viewer, this model avoids eye contact while unabashedly baring her bosom. The artist proposes a subtly erotic game that is more suggestive than exhibitionist. The frontal presentation of the young woman’s breast is countered by a facial profile that hides her identity from the viewer, imbuing the work with an air of mystery that increases its sensuality.

While this work has long been the subject of interest due to its singular presentation of the female nude, there are indications that such representations of courtesans with the same characteristics were not really so exceptional. Mores Italiae, a catalog from 1575 with images of Venetian prostitutes, includes a Retratto dela Ragusana that shows a bare-breasted courtesan in profile, making it a close precedent to the Museo del Prado’s Lady.

Though long attributed to Jacopo Tintoretto, this work was actually painted by his son, Domenico, whose portraits lack the concentrated emotions of his father’s works, but make up for it in elegance and a taste for color and detail especially notable in his female likenesses.

This painting must have entered Spain’s Royal Collection of Spain between 1636 and 1666, along with several other portraits of Venetian women. Eight of these adorned the Galeria del Mediodía at Madrid’s Alcázar Palace in 1666, where they were attributed to Tintoretto.

El Prado en el Hermitage, Museo Estatal del Hermitage: Museo del Prado, 2011, p.80-81

Technical data

Related artworks

Young Venetian Woman
Oil on canvas, Late XVI century
Tintoretto, Domenico
Oil on canvas, Ca. 1590
Tintoretto, Domenico
Inventory number
Tintoretto, Domenico
Lady revealing her Breast
1580 - 1590
Height: 62 cm; Width: 55.6 cm
Royal Collection (Collection of Philip IV, 1636-1666; Alcázar Palace, Madrid, Galería del Mediodía, 1666; Alcázar Palace, 1686; Alcázar Palace, 1700).

Bibliography +

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Salas, Xavier de, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Bernari, Carlo, La obra pictorica completa de Tintoretto, Noguer, Barcelona, Madrid, 1974.

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Carroggio, Fernando, Historia del arte, CarroggioS.A., Barcelona, 1983, pp. 162.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 688.

Lawner, Lynne, Lives of the Courtesans. Portraits of the Renaissance, Rizzoli, Nueva York, 1987, pp. 58,205.

Doce artistas de vanguardia en el Museo del Prado:Saura, Bar, Mondadori, Madrid, 1990, pp. 51.

Pedrocco, F., Iconografia delle cortigiane in Venezia, In, Il Gioco dell' amore le cortigiane di Venezia dal Trecento al Settecento., Berenice Art Books, 1990, pp. 82.

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Alberti, R., Mirar un cuadro en el Museo del Prado, R.T.V.E. y Lunwerg Editores, Madrid, 1991, pp. 102-104.

Checa Cremades, Fernando, Tiziano y la monarquía hispánica: usos y funciones de la pintura veneciana en España (siglos XVI y XVII), Nerea, Madrid, 1994, pp. 283, n. 83; 285.

Bettagno, Alessandro, El Museo del Prado, Fonds MercatorFundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1996, pp. 253,254.

Checa Cremades, Fernando, De Tiziano a Bassano. Maestros Venecianos del Museo de Prado, Museu Nacional D'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona, 1997, pp. 104-106.

Portús Pérez, Javier, La sala reservada del Museo del Prado y el coleccionismo de pintura al desnudo en la corte española, 1554-1838, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1998, pp. 92.

Hollander, Anne, Fabric of Vision : Dress and Drapery in Painting, National Gallery Company, Londres, 2002, pp. 59/ lám.42.

Obras Maestras del Museo del Prado, The Yomiuri Shimbun, Tokyo, 2002.

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Parret, Hermann, Venus Devoilee : la Venus D'Urbino du Titien, Editions Snoek, Bruselas, 2003.

De Tiziano a Goya: grandes maestros del Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado: SEACEX, Madrid, 2007, pp. 241.

Mazzucco, M., Jacomo Tintoretto e i suoi figli. Storia di una familia veneziana., Milano, 2009, pp. 275,276,451.

El Prado en el Hermitage, Museo Estatal del Hermitage: Museo del Prado, 2011, pp. 80-81.

Attardi, Luisa, 'Ritratto di donna che scopre il seno' il Tintoretto. In, Tintoretto, Skira, 2012, pp. 196-197, nº 36.

Giandomenico Tiepolo y sus retratos de fantasía: el artista en la Corte, Banca March, 2014, pp. 73 n.1.

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Other inventories +

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 1112.
Tintoretto. / 1112. Retrato de una muger desconocida descubriendo el pecho. / Alto 2 pies, 2 pulg, 4 lin; ancho 1 pie, 11 pulg, 6 lin.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 1112.

Inv. Testamentaría Fernando VII, Real Museo, Sala Reservada, 1834. Núm. 21.
VEINTE Y UNO. Retrato de señora. / Tintoretto Escla. Veneciana / L. / 2120

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 382.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 382.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 441.

Exhibitions +

Titian and the Glorification of Women
05.10.2021 - 30.01.2022

La invención del cuerpo. Diálogos entre arte y anatomía
02.07.2018 - 04.11.2018

Labirinti del cuore. I 'due amici' di Giorgione e le stagioniu del sentimento bel `500 italiano
22.06.2017 - 17.09.2017

Splendor, Myth and Vision: Nudes from the Prado
Williamstown MA
12.06.2016 - 10.10.2016

Captive Beauty. Treasures from The Prado Museum
10.10.2015 - 31.01.2016

Jacopo Robusti Tintoretto
24.02.2012 - 10.06.2012

El Prado en el Hermitage
San Petersburgo
25.02.2011 - 29.05.2011

From Titian to Goya. Great Masters from the Museo del Prado
13.09.2007 - 12.11.2007

From Titian to Goya. Great Masters from the Museo del Prado
29.06.2007 - 24.08.2007

Vénus dévoilée. Autour d'un seul tableau: la Vénus d'Urbino du Titien
10.10.2003 - 01.02.2004

Obras Maestras del Museo del Prado - Tokio
05.03.2002 - 23.06.2002

Pintura veneciana del siglo XVI de las colecciones del Museo del Prado
04.12.1997 - 08.02.1998

Location +

Room 044 (On Display)


Displayed objects +


Update date: 03-09-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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