Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

Lady with an Ermine (1490)

Tuesday, May 13, 2003, 3:30 pm-5:00 pm
Legion of Honor, Lincoln Park, San Francisco

Edited by Peter Y. Chou

Leonardo's Lady with an Ermine is one of the most important woks in all of Western art. Only a handful of authentic panel painting of him survive. Enormously curious, Leonardo often painted with experimental materials or abandoned projects once he had mastered the formal challenge each presented. An object of the greatest rarit, the Lady with an Ermine is a captivating image of exquisite elegance and reveals the artistic genius of Leonardo da Vinci's incomparable creative mind.

Leonardo (1452-1519) painted this portrait while in Milan working for Duke Ludovico Sforza (1451/1452-1508), one of the wealthiest and most powerful princes of Renaissance Italy. Cecilia Gallerani is the sitter, a lady-in-waiting who became the duke's mistress in 1489. The ermine she holds, a weasel in its winter coat, is a highly valued creature, and here it provides the key to understanding the multiple layers of meaning conveyed by the portrait. The Greek word for the animal is galee, an obvious play on "Gallerani", Cecilia's family name. The ermine also refers to her character: according to legend, the ermine is too fastidious to dirty it fur. Thus by extension, the ermine suggests Cecilia's wholesome or pure nature. It is important that the ermine also refers directly to Duke Ludovico himself. Having received the insignia of the chivalric Order of the Ermine from the King of Naples in 1488, Ludovico was nicknamed Italico Morel bianco ermellino ("Italian Moor, white ermine"). Thus the painting celebrates both the girl's beauty and the couples' relationship.

The Lady with an Ermine and two other portraits by Leonardo, the Ginervra de' Benci [ca. 1474, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.) and the Mona Lisa (ca. 1503-1506), Musée du Louvre, Paris] had a profound impact on the evolution of European portrait based on antique models— rigid formality of pose and psychological detachment— to emphasize supple and animatedform and a relaxed elegance. Extolled in lives of contemporary poetry, Leonardo's completely novel Lady with an Ermine achieved an unprecedented immediacy suggested through pose and gesture.

Lady with an Ermine (The Princess Czartoryski Museum, Cracow):
Lady with an Ermine
(Exhibit at Legion of Honor, San Francisco, March 8, 2003 - May 18, 2003)
Lady with an Ermine
(Exhibit at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, December 8, 2002 - February 16, 2003)
Lady with an Ermine
(By Maxine Annabell, Loadstar's Lair, New Zealand)
Lady with an Ermine
(Czartoryskich Museum, Krakow, Poland)
Cecilia Gallerani (Lady with the Ermine) (c. 1483-86)
(Czartoryski Museum, Cracow)
Lady with an Ermine
(The Artchive)
Lady with an Ermine
(CGFA: Carol Gerten Fine Arts)
Lady with an Ermine
(an exhibition 1993 at Rooseum in Malmö, Sweden)
Criticism— Leonardo Da Vinci "The Lady with an Ermine"
(Linda Doeser, The Life and Work of Leonardo Da Vinci)
(Palazzo del Quirinale, Rome - Brera Art Gallery, Milan - Pitti Palace, Florence,
October 15 1998 - January 24 1999)
Lady with an Ermine [Czartoryski Gallery, Krakow]
Leonardo's Lady with the Ferret
(John Oliver Wilson with his "ferret")

Leonardo da Vinci and the Splendor of Poland Exhibit
Polish Treasures Visit a Kindred Culture [Leonardo's "Lady With an Ermine"]
(By TED LOOS, New York Times, Oct. 27, 2002)
TRAVEL ADVISORY: Mona Lisa Rival to Start Three-City Tour of U.S.
["Lady With an Ermine"] (By JUDITH H. DOBRZYNSKI, New York Times, Sept. 8, 2002)
Leonardo da Vinci and the Splendor of Poland
(September 13 - November 24, 2002)
(Baker/Rowland Exhibition Galleries, Milwaukee Art Museum)
Leonardo da Vinci and the Splendor of Poland
(December 8, 2002 - February 16, 2003)
(Caroline Wiess Law Building, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston)
Leonardo da Vinci and the Splendor of Poland
(March 8, 2003 ‹ May 18, 2003)
(Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco)
Exhibition Marks First Showing in San Francisco of a Painting by Leonardo da Vinci
(Legion of Honor Press Release, 11/26/2002)
Leonardo da Vinci and the Splendor of Poland
(The Splendor of Poland Cultural Events Committee)
Leonardo's 'Lady': One of da Vinci's three surviving portraits comes to S.F.
(By Victoria Dalkey, Sacramento Bee, March 23, 2003)
Works shed light on determination of Polish people
(Tri-Valley Herald, March 14, 2003)
Virtual Tour: 5 paintings from Splendor of Poland Exhibit (Legion of Honor)
(Lady With an Ermine, Stanczyk: the King¹s Jester, Princess Pelagia Sapieha, View of Warsaw from the Terrace of the Royal Castle, Marriage of the Virgin)
History of The Czartoryski Museum
(Home of Lady With an Ermine in Krakow, Poland)
Princess Izabela Czartoryska (1746-1835)
(Opens her first museum called "The Gothic House")
Princess Izabela Czartoryska (1746-1835)
(Painted by Alexander Roslin, 1774)
Stanislaw Witkiewicz (Polish, 1851-1915)
Halny (in the Tatra Mountains)
(The National Museum, Cracow)
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (French, 1780-1867)
Academic Figure

(The National Museum, Warsaw)
Johann Friedrich Overbeck (German, 1789-1869)
The Marriage of the Virgin
(Poznañ, The National Museum/The Raczyński Foundation)

Leonardo da Vinci Paintings & Drawings
Paintings of Leonardo da Vinci
(The Worldwide Art Gallery)
Leonardo da Vinci: CGFA
(25 paintings & drawings with Biography)
WebMuseum, Paris: Leonardo da Vinci
(Renaissance Timeline, From Sketches to Paintings, Renaissance polymath, Interior depth)
Paintings Album: Leonardo da Vinci
(26 paintings in HTML & PowerPoint versions)
Leonardo da Vinci: Olga's Gallery
(37 images of Leonardo's paintings & drawings)
Leonardo da Vinci
(OCAIW: Orazio Centaro's Art Images on the Web)
Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci
(Assembled by David M. Reuteler, St. Paul, MN)
Leonardo da Vinci: Master Draftsman
(Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, January 22 - March 30, 2003)
Study of Hands (c. 1474), metalpoint over chalk
(Windsor Castle, Royal Collection © HM Queen Elizabeth II)
Self-Portrait (c. 1512-1515)
Red Chalk, 13" x 8.5" (33x21.6 cm) (Royal Library, Turin)
National Gallery of Art Presents "Ginevra's Story"
(The mysteries of Leonardo's first known portrait)

Leonardo da Vinci Web Links
Leonardo da Vinci Online
(Artcyclopedia: Museums & Art Galleries, Images, Web Links, Articles)
Leonardo da Vinci: Scientist, Inventor, Artist
(Museum of Science, Boston)
Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519)
(The Worldwide Art Gallery)
Theft of the Mona Lisa (August 21st, 1911)
(PBS: Treasures of the World)
Biography of Leonardo da Vinci
(By Martin Kausal)
Leonardo: The Man and His Machines
(By Maxine Annabell, Loadstar's Lair, New Zealand)
Leonardo da Vinci Postage Stamp (1952)
(500th Birth Anniversary from Democratic Republic of Germany, 20 DM)
BOOK: As a Novel Rises Quickly, Book Industry Takes Note ["Da Vinci Code"]
(By BILL GOLDSTEIN, New York Times, Apr. 21, 2003)
ART: Renaissance Genius as Compulsive Draftsman
(By CAROL VOGEL, New York Times, Jan. 20, 2003)
The Leonardo Cover-Up [The Adoration of the Magi]
(By MELINDA HENNEBERGER, New York Times, Apr. 21, 2002)
ARTS ABROAD: Restoration of a Leonardo Is Ruled Out
(By MELINDA HENNEBERGER, New York Times, Feb. 5, 2002)
BOOKS: Behind the Smile [Sherwin B. Nuland's Leonardo da Vinci]
(By David Papineau, New York Times, November 26, 2000)
What Is It With Mona Lisa's Smile? It's You!
(By SANDRA BLAKESLEE, New York Times, November 21, 2000)

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© Peter Y. Chou, WisdomPortal.com
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: peter@wisdomportal.com (5-13-2003)