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Titian painted this picture when he was in his early twenties, at a time when private portraits of individual women were still rare. We don‘t know the identity of the sitter, if indeed this is a portrait in the traditional sense, rather than a general picture of a woman designed to encourage such commissions. The title La Schiavona, meaning ’the Dalmatian woman‘, was given to the picture in the seventeenth century.
The profile bust portrait, inspired by ancient Roman sculpture and cameos, appears to represent the sitter herself but may commemorate a member of her family. It may relate to the contemporary debate about the rival merits of painting and sculpture. The letters ’T.V.' inscribed on the parapet stand for Tiziano Veccellio (Titian).
Oil on canvas
H 119.4 x W 96.5 cm
Presented through The Art Fund by Sir Francis Cook, Bt., in memory of his father, Sir Herbert Cook, Bt., 1942