A Young Lady of Fashion
attributed to Paolo Uccello, Italian, 1397-1475
The portrait has a highly decorative quality in which costume and ornament play a major role. The rather flatly modeled face is placed on an insubstantial bust set against a uniform blue background. The woman is portrayed both according to literary notions of female pulchritude, which called for fair skin and blonde hair, and the dictates of contemporary fashion. Costly brocaded fabrics, pearls, and precious stones serve not only to display the sitter’s familial wealth and status but also to enhance her physical appearance – in art, as in life. In addition to a red and gold brocade sleeve and a sleeveless overdress, the woman wears a head brooch, a pearl choker with jeweled pendant, and a white cap ornamented with pearls.
This fashionable beauty looks impassive, immobile, and immutable, as if she were outside space and time. Her portrait image has a static, stereotyped character, in which the sitter’s individuality is almost entirely suppressed in favor of the social ideals for which she stands.
In August 2018, choreographer, painter, dancer, and director Shen Wei transformed the Artist-in-Residence apartment at the Museum into a working studio. Wei was introduced as a young child to a variety of traditional Chinese art forms including opera, watercolor, and ink drawing. Today he is an artist who moves freely across mediums to find spiritual meaning in an increasingly material world. One of the works he was drawn to during his residency is the A Young Lady of Fashion, located in the Long Gallery. This Renaissance portrait, painted in profile, has a striking resemblance to a member of the Shen Wei Dance Arts. The encounter with this artwork inspired Shen Wei and ultimately led to the creation of Passion Spirit, a film shot at the Museum and at the Arnold Arboretum the following Summer.33 x 51 inches