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Portrait Of An Unknown Woman

TWO nights ago, I had the pleasure of attending an Italian wine dinner at this restaurant in the city. Good stuff. Fine wine with a Michelin star chef in the house. I was feeling a little anti-social that evening, so I wasn't sure if the lanky caucasians occupying most of the seats across the dining hall were actually Italians. The five-foot (more or less) tall chef, on the other hand, couldn't have been more Italian that he already was :) 


My attention fell on this lady. With her, you'd know she's Italian a mile away. Loud and animated with lots of hand gesture, hearty laughter with an interesting, curly accent when she spoke. She had a sense of humour and I mean, she really was funny with all of that put together. 
"This wine is from a vintage to remember. But I tell you, you drink wine to forget, not to remember. 
"To forget your boss, your husband or whoever you want to forget," she said, holding up a particular range of Italian red. 
I was smiling to myself, watching the social butterfly do her thing as she slided across the room, holding up her long dress in one hand so she could move around with much ease. I kind of liked that spirit about her. 


La belle Ferronière
An hour later, we ended up greeting each other and talking when she made a pit stop at my table. Minutes into the conversation, she blurted out that I had a brilliant smile and that when I smiled, I had people's attention. 
"You are very lucky. I need this (alcohol) to be loud to get all that attention. You just have to smile and people will look at you.
"Mysterious like La belle Ferronière," she said that with so much of hand movements and facial expressions I can't explain. 
"Whoa, thank you. It's a big compliment coming from you. But who is La Belle?,". I had to ask alright. I only ever knew Mona Lisa out of the four female portraits by Leonardo Da Vinci. Not great with art history. Well, at this point, I wasn't sure if the loud lady was offended that I didn't know all of Da Vinci's works but she did look a little perturbed at my ignorance. 


*Turns out, La belle Ferronnière is also simply known as the Portrait Of An Unknown Woman. The painting's title, applied as early as the seventeenth century, identifying the sitter as the wife or daughter of an ironmonger (a ferronnier), was said to be discreetly alluding to a reputed mistress of Francis I of France, married to a certain Le Ferron. The tale is a romantic legend of revenge where the aggrieved husband intentionally infected himself with syphilis, which he passed to the king through his wife.


Although the model of the painting is still shrouded in mystery, the landmark exhibition "Leonardo Da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan" ( National Gallery of Art in London, 9 Nov 2011- 5 Feb 2012) listed the portrait as possibly depicting Beatrice d'Este, wife of Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. This challenges the portrait's earlier attribution to Lucrezia Crivelli, a mistress of Ludovico. 


There are so many confusing references as to who this person was. I think they should just leave her be as the title suggests - Portrait Of  An Unknown Woman. 


(* reference from Wikipedia





Comments

  1. That lady sounds like quite something Jaya, it sounds like a pretty crazy night too, I'd feel weird around so many Italians.

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    1. it wasnt a crazy night really. the italians weren't as noisy as the chinese after all that drinks.
      :)

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  2. Hah, what a great character! I'd invite her to dinner in a flash! Not sure about La belle Ferronière, though. She looks as if she's scowling to me.

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    1. yeah GB. i like her too :)
      of course. ferroniere probably had already contracted STD by then. haha

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  3. LOL now that is quite the way to get back at someone, not sure I go to such efforts though. Sounds like she was quite the character as well.

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    1. yeah. what a way, right ? so complicated. i guess, you cant really go out and lay your hands on the king of the day for revenge of some sort.

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  4. “A brilliant smile.” How lovely when people not only think such lovely things about you but actually tell you.
    (And you do have a lovely smile…)

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    1. haha. i was watching her with a bit of envy and she then turns around and says something like that to me. i usually tell people if i find them attractive.
      thanks Beth :)

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  5. great compliment, sounds like an interesting evening.

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    1. yeah. the food was great. i dont mind sitting through it all over again.

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  6. To be compared to a painting is a compliment indeed, despite the fact that the model looked as though she needed a good joke.

    I thought it was lovely of the lady to tell you that you have a nice smile. Something like that would sure make anyone's day

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    1. the model needs some fun in the sun ! she looks quite depressed.
      yeah, Terra. it was quite a compliment.
      :)

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  7. I like the moments where I'm forced to admit ignorance. It's in those times where the fire to learn is the hottest. I think your smile is way better than the enigmatic smirk of the unknown woman.

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    1. i thought the lady looked enigmatic too. that's the thing with protraits from those era. the models dont smile ever. maybe it's a pain to keep smiling a big smile while posing live for the artist as opposed to smiling for a candid camera shot of present time ?
      thanks Shockgrubz. you know i love your voice :)

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  8. That's pretty interesting. One can learn a lot from talking to people, or reading your blog. I never knew about La belle Ferronnière.

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    1. yeah, Matt. i always do. thanks. i'll e-mail you one of these days.

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  9. I love the History of Art and it was the only part of my Linguistics course that I really enjoyed! Flamboyant people fascinate me too... I almost always wonder what they're hiding or what it is that they're NOT telling people :)

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    1. i never had the chance to learn art history that much. i'm sure it's pretty fun :)
      i know this flamboyant dude...you know, you should see this guy. if i can find a pic of him, i'll e-mail you one of these days.
      :)

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  10. I like this Italian lady's take on vintage wine! Ha! An interesting portrait. She looks like she knows more than she's letting on

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    1. hahaha. she had interesting things to say and yes, she is more than what she's letting on i suspect.

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  11. Interesting dinner! The unknown woman actually doesn't look very happy to me - wonder if she already had syphilis when that was painted? That's a serious need for revenge if you'd give your own self a fatal disease.

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    1. LOL. that's exactly what i thought when i first saw the portrait. yeap. serious need for revenge. bad.

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  12. you do have a brilliant and beautiful smile Jaya!

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    1. thanks Kage, and you do too !

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  13. That woman in the painting doesn't seem to happy though. :P

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    1. she may already have STD...thats why perhaps :p

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  14. Interesting back story but I'm curious about the food you ate too

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    1. that'll be long list, Nursie.

      my ultimate favourite were grilled quid and fried prawns with ginger and potato sauce.

      the soup was yums - lobsters bisquie with cappucino and salted croisants, and i loved the risotto with cheese, coffee powder and black truffle.

      and the braised beef cheek was amazing :)

      of course choc mousse and orange creme brulee to finish.

      and lots of Frescobaldi wines.

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  15. U know Jaya, a long time back, a guy told me that my shoe size and my IQ were the same.. he said it so dead pan and matter-of-factedly that I thought he was actually complimenting me...

    It took me a year or so to actually get it... today I use it whenever I need to give my introduction speech :)

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    1. :) i am sure your IQ is better than the shoe size ? hahaha.
      hope you're well, Raj.

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  16. That's the kind of revenge I'd never heard of before. People never cease to amaze me when it comes to... well, anything.

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  17. Ha sounds like a good party if everyone is drunk, no conga lines i hope?. I had heard of that painting, i know Da Vincis most famous painting 'Mona Lisa' is it is probably a fake. It has been stolen so many times that no one can identify or is willing to its authenticity. What museum would?, what art expert?. If the Lisa is a fake then what else?. Anyway most masters had assistants do most of their work and they just painted the cool bits. And you factor in forgers who forged him in his own time because he was famous and you have a big mess. A few people say the Mona Lisa is Da Vinci himself in drag, because he was gay,not much pink in his painting though, and a distinct lack of glitter...
    Im envious that you get invited to parties.

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    1. haha. i'm just back from another party, and having a headache while writing this! this time French.
      you have a point there with it being a fake. i've seen the mona lisa in the lourve, and even if it was real,it didnt look any different from the fakes that we get here i guess. yeap. i've heard of that theory about the mona lisa being da vinci himself.

      my fav painting is Marriage at Cana - Paolo Veronese. i think it's brilliant :p

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