Reblogged from jaded-mandarin  4,897 notes



Portrait of a Young Woman of Frankfurt, detail (c. 1480-1485)

Sandro Botticelli

God this has to be one of my favorite paintings of all time. Simonetta Vespucci is probably like my top three muses of art history ever, the others being Jane Morris and either Marie-Thérèse Walter or Françoise Gilot (because let’s be honest here Picasso paints a woman in the way she’d want to be painted, and if I could choose any artist from history to paint me, it would be him). 

So back to Simonetta. I remember seeing this the January of my sophomore year. I was taking a winter semester course on Northern and Italian Renaissance, and our professor took us on a trip to the Met. There was an exhibition on the Italian Renaissance there and it was such an amazingly comprehensive show with pieces from various European museums. Of course, this painting was the centerpiece of the entire exhibition and the catalogue cover because in real life, its beauty is overwhelming. 

First things first, this has got a reverse-Mona Lise effect. What I mean by that is, generally people’s first impression upon seeing the Mona Lisa is “oh I didn’t know it was so small”. When I saw Simonetta, I had the exact opposite reaction and thought “oh my, it’s so large!” (insert any variation of dick joke here). But seriously, Simonetta is larger than life-size here and it’s so unexpected because in photo reproductions, you see Botticelli’s fine brushstrokes and Simonetta’s clear facial features and you think this must be a small and delicate work. In real life, it’s about the size of a dorm room poster, which made sense to me at that particular time period in my life. I was totally in awe and I stood in front of this painting for ages, just taking in the grandiose details. 

The thing that really enchanted me about this piece was how even though everything about the painting was fine and precise, the unexpectedly large size gave Simonetta a noble and even untouchable air. If Simonetta as immortalized by Botticelli here had walked into a room, it would fall silent and absolutely no one would approach her because her beauty demands to be seen but not be familiarized with. I think her presence even inspires a bit of fear in the hearts of both men and women, a fear of humiliation perhaps.