Federico Barocci (c. 1553-1612), Portrait of a Young Lady, c. 1600
The aristocratic female figure stands luminous and cool against a dark background, turning her head towards us, looking down at the spectators whose gazes begin at the elegantly interlaced hands and are led upwards along the arms to the expressive eyes.
The painting's composition
The white silk dress shines like mother-of-pearl. The gold necklace echoes the oval formed by the arms, accentuates the curves of the bosom and slides behind the soft semi-transparent ruff that surrounds the face like leaves around a dewy bud.
The painting's mournfeel feel
The facial expression is surprisingly lifelike, dreamy, ethereal yet present. Her smile has a slightly mournful feel to it, an effect Barocci achieved by blurring the contours, the corners of the eyes and the mouth with soft colours letting one shape merge into another.
X-ray photography shows that Barocci very deliberately worked his way out of what was originally a more well-defined and static face towards the changeable, indefinable expression we see today.
We do not know who the model was. The style of the painting suggests that it was painted around 1600.