Andrea del Brescianino
Italian, 1487-1545?


SN 25, oil on panel

From "The Pages".

Andrea di Giovannantonio di Tommaso di Piccinelli (called Andrea del Brescianino) was born in 1487, in Siena. He may have been trained by Girolamo del Pacchia. In Florence (1525) he came under the influence of Raphael, Bartolomeo, & da Vinci. His Virgin and Child with Two Saints shows this early influence, both in colors and close figure groupings. Apart from a short visit to Rome (c1516) to assist Peruzzi with the decoration of Villa Farnesina, most of his time was spent in Siena.

In the late 1520s he seems to have had a studio with his brother Raffaello. Although the latter also painted, the few altarpieces are attributed to Andrea.

His style is consistent & shows a relationship with early 16th c Sienese school, especially with Girolamo Pacchia & Domenico Becafumi. Later the main link is with Fra Bartolomeo & Andrea del Sarto…even Puligo & Raphael. His colors and compositional ideas are mostly from Sarto.

Renaissance portraits often illustrated, through costume and jewelry, the newly-gained wealth of families grown rich through international trading and banking.

This waist-length portrait depicts a pensive young woman holding an open book in her hand. She wears a linen chemise under colorful, rich clothing; there is a thick gold chain around her neck and rings on her fingers. Her huge, puffy sleeves may have been detachable, as it was the custom to make them usable with more than one outfit. (Sometimes they were elaborately decorated with jeweled embroidery.)
The sitter’s accomplishments and aspirations were also suggested, and it is significant that she holds a book, alluding to her education. (Reference the elaborate prayer book of Ann of Cleves.) The skills of reading and writing were taught to girls, both privately and in town schools.

The presentation is strikingly dramatic, with its plain dark background. (The same stiff drapery folds are also found in Brescianino’s St. Catherine painting.) There is a Manneristic expression in the face of the girl, while the chiseled, sculptural modeling of the face is very like Andrea del Sarto’s Venus and Two Amorini. The suppression of extraneous detail is also typically Mannerist. We still have the Renaissance attitude in lack of direct communication, however.

This work has been previously attributed to Sarto, Pontormo, and finally after some study by Suida, to Brescianino.

Additional Bibliography:
Ventura, A. “Storia dell’Arte Italiana,” in La Pittura del Cinquecento, 1932, Vol IX/5 , pp 357-373
Freedburg, SJ “Painting in Italy, 1500-1600.” 1936, p101
Zen, Frederico “Italian Paintings in the Walters Art Gallery.” 1976, pp 346-47
Duval, Cynthia “Medieval and Renaissance Splendor: Arms & Armor from the Higgins Armory
Museum, Worcester, MA and Works of Art from the John & Mable Ringling
Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida.” 1984
Costamagna, Philippe “Pontormo :Ritratto di Giovana Donna.” 1994, p 323