Leonardo da Vinci: Portrait of Ginevra de' Benci (1474-1478)

(National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., USA)

A famous portrait by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), aged 22 when he made this. The woman on the painting is the 16-year old Florentine lady Ginevra de’ Benci, a poet and learned conversationalist. Ginevra married on 14 January 1474 with Luigi di Bernardo Niccolini and this painting was probably made to commemorate this occasion (another possibility is that the painting was made by an admirer in her honor). The tree in the background is a juniper tree which is a symbol of chastity and a cognate of Ginevra’s name (The Italian word for Juniper is 'ginepro'). A nice detail is that the painting also contains the thumbprint of his hand (on the right side of Ginevra between the juniper and the first tree in the far background). Orginally the painting was bigger and included her hands but it was cut to this size. Leonardo da Vinci made this painting around 1474-1478.