Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS | 1001 Bissonnet Street
TX-77005 Houston

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press release

Raphael (Rafaello Sanzio), La Fornarina, c. 1520 A sumptuous, enigmatic portrait by Renaissance master Raphael is on view in the United States for the first time.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is privileged to exhibit Raphael´s La Fornarina, one of the most famous works by the Italian Renaissance master. La Fornarina was painted about 1520 by Rafaello Sanzio (1483—1520), known as Raphael. He is acknowledged as one of the greatest European artists and is renowned for his portrayals of feminine beauty.

La Fornarina is an idealized likeness of an unknown woman. Her pose—at once modest and provocative—derives from ancient sculptures of Venus. The three-quarter-length view is typical of Renaissance portraiture, and her expression has drawn comparisons to Leonardo da Vinci´s Mona Lisa. A great deal of the painting´s allure is bound up in the long-held belief that the model had been Raphael´s lover and muse, a belief supported by the inscription on the armband: RAPHAEL VRBINAS ("Raphael of Urbino"), marking both the work of art and the woman as possessions of the artist. Traditionally, she has been identified as Margherita Luti, the daughter of a baker (fornaio)—hence the name La Fornarina, or "the little baker girl." However, the sitter´s actual identity remains the subject of debate.

The accompanying exhibition booklet presents, for the first time in English, the latest scholarship and analysis of the painting. La Fornarina´s inaugural visit to the United States began at the Frick Collection in New York City. Following the MFAH presentation, the tour concludes at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.


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Raphael´s La Fornarina
Ort: Audrey Jones Beck Building