|This cast was taken from a marble original of about 1473 attributed to the sculptor Francesco Laurana (c. 1430-c. 1502). Previously in the collection of the Berlin Staatliche Museum, the Laurana bust was damaged by a fire in the Friedrichshain flak tower, where it was stored for protection during the Second World War, along with thousands of other artworks. The head of the original marble remains in Berlin.|
Francesco Laurana was born in Vrana, Dalmatia in the republic of Venice (now Croatia) in about 1420. He was one of a group of Dalmatian artists who worked abroad at the foreign courts. Only rediscovered in the nineteenth-century, attempts to trace Laurana's career and securely identifiable examples of his work have remained inconclusive, in part because of his scattered career and that many of his works have been lost. Laurana is first recorded working in Naples in 1453, and in France at the court of Rene of Anjou and Sicily duing the 1460s. He is most noted for his series of portrait busts of women which he executed while at the court of Naples in the 1470s.
The model for this bust is thought to be of Ippolita Maria Sforza, (1446-1484), a member of one of the powerful condottieri or military ruling families of Renaissance Italy. The Sforza ruled the Duchy of Milan from about 1450-1535. In 1465, aged nineteen, Ippolita married Alfonso of Aragon, Duke of Calabria (1448-1495), eldest son of King Ferdinand I of Naples. Alfonso was a great supporter of artistic patronage in Naples and as homegrown artistic talent was not particularly prolific, there was a demand for established foreign talent; Francesco Laurana was one such artist brought in to work for the court.
Laurana was commissioned to produce a series of portrait busts of the Aragonese royal ladies.
Laurana has carved the sitter's face with great sensitivity; the smooth features and calm expression are characteristic throughout all his portrait busts. With her downturned, nonconfronting gaze, and demure smile, the busts features act as as visual conveyers of modesty, poise and breeding. Laurana's portrait busts are specifically court art - elegant, pure and aristocratic.
The marble original retained traces of pigmentation and gilding in the delicate incised decoration of the dress, indicating that the bust was originally coloured. The hole at the breast may have been covered by a brooch or pendant and the cartouche may have depicted the name of the sitter. The base is decorated with two reclining female figures and winged cupids in a classicising style.
This work is currently on display in the RA Library.