A Renaissance masterpiece, Portrait of a Lady in White, is currently on view at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California. The portrait by Tiziano Vecelli (known as Titian) is on loan from the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden and will be shown at the Norton Simon Museum through March 2019.
NPR reports that “in letters, the Venetian Renaissance master Titian referred to the elegant woman as his ‘most precious being’ and the ‘mistress of my soul.’ But he never named the subject of his 1561 painting Portrait of a Lady in White.”
The portrait needs to be considered in the history of clothing and consumer culture in Renaissance Italy. Carol Tognari, curator at the Norton Simon Museum, remarks that “Venetian women were known throughout the world as being well-dressed — sumptuously dressed — and taken care of.”
Evelyn Welch, a prominent Renaissance art historian, has done extensive research on shopping and consumer culture during in Renaissance Italy. Her book, Shopping in the Renaisance: Consumer Cultures in Italy, 1400-1600, demonstrates that women were important consumers in Renaissance Italian city-states.
Court women were especially prominent buyers of cloth, clothing, and jewelry for sale in the shops and markets of Renaissance Florence, Venice, Rome, and other cities. Welch argues that “with more cash in hand than many patrician men, they were powerful purchasers who were able to make a significant impact on the Renaissance marketplace” (Welch, p. 245). She focuses especially on the example of Isabella d’Este’s shopping expeditions to Venice to show how princely women purchased clothing, jewelry, antiquities, and other precious objects.
NPR reports on Titian, Portrait of a Lady in White.
See: Evelyn Welch, Shopping in the Renaissance: Consumer Cultures in Italy, 1400-1600 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press).