Essay Sample on Portraits of Simonetta Vespucci

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1287 Words
Date:  2022-12-02


The study is very significant since it strives to interpret the perception and the role of gender during the Italian Renaissance. More precisely, it seeks to explore the status of women. This is important since most of the previous studies often overlook the role of women in the Renaissance. It occurs because most of the painting during the 15th century revolved around men with very few paintings of women. Therefore, this research is significant as it will help to develop and understand the critical insights of how women were perceived in the renaissance as signified in these portraits.

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Analysis of the Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci by Piero di Cosimo

The subject portrays a young lady facing left in half length of the profile. The breasts are bear an along the necklace he is wearing there is an intertwined snake that is almost biting its tail. The lady is in an open background where the lefts side is seen to be arid while the right side is lush. Her face is surrounded by dark clouds possibly symbolizing her premature death. It is also magnified by the drying tree on the left side of the background where she is facing. In the Italian renaissance landscape background, the existence of the symbol of a withering tree is an indication of death. At the bottom (base) of the painting, there are an inscription in carved letter reading; SIMONETTA IANUENSIS VESPUCCIA.

The visual overview of the painting symbolizes various aspects. For instance, the dark clouds contrast with the white but not pale skin symbolizing the dark days facing her future. The icon of the snake biting its tails shows the cycle of life especially the reconstruction that occurred during the Renaissance. The snake could also be a symbol of pagan belief in the hope of resurrection and eternity. The bare breasts are a symbol of a wedding. It is also evident that the features of the lady in the portrait exhibit surprising purity. As per the fashion attributes of the Renaissance, the forehead is high, and the hairline is shaved. The hairstyle also portrays the elegance and the fashionable hairstyle of women of the time. The hairstyle is also revealed as that of a married woman where she has gathered braids decorated with elegant and beautiful strings of beads, ribbons, and pearls. The braids are also arranged neatly corresponding to the fashion of the Italian during the 15th century.

Analysis of the Portrait of a Young Lady (Simonetta Vespucci) By Sandro Botticelli

The portrait presents a young lady facing right three-quarter length of the profile. The lady is neatly dressed with the burst revealed to show the cameo medallion on her neck possibly to signify her legendary status in the time. She is wearing a beautiful and classy shite outfit symbolizing the purity and beauty of the women of the 15th century in Italian Renaissance. The background is dark to show the contrasting outlook of a lady. The dark background can also be a symbol of the sad mood surrounding the premature death. Generally, her appearance is stylish and lavish in accordance with the fashion attributes of the 15th century. The hairstyle is almost similar to the painting presented by Piero di Cosimo. It is neatly presented with classy decorations of beads, ribbons, and feathers. However, unlike Piero di Cosimo's portrait which has gathered braids, in this painting the hair is partially hanging possibly a wig.

How Women Were Perceived During the Renaissance as Seen in the Portraits

A major theme concerning the life of women in Renaissance is characterized by subjugation. Women were considered as legal objects of their husbands and fathers, and therefore they were denied all political rights. Nonetheless, the renaissance was characterized by transformation and rebirth of the cultural development within the society. The renaissance artwork reveals the growing appreciation of culture within the Italian community as it mirrors the cultural realities that existed during that time. It is evident that the paintings are a reflection of the cultural values and ideas in a deeper perspective rather than the realities. The paintings in this discussion show that women were a significant element during the renaissance artwork and therefore there is need to understand the representation that these paintings portray about the role of women in the society at that time. Looking closely at the two pieces of artwork, it is clear that common attributes about the renaissance women prevail. In this case, it is essential to explore if the painters represented the reality and if this is the case, I will, therefore, explore what exactly the painters saw in women at that time. This will help in evaluating how women were perceived during this time.

In most of the female portrait of the renaissance portray nudity as the central theme. For instance, the painting Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci by Piero di Cosimo shows a woman with bare breasts while the painting of The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli also reveals nude women. These artists used the theme of nudity to express the beauty of women by exposing the beauty and elegance of their bodies. It is evident through the choice of colors and surfaces used to communicate sensual love and the perfection of the woman's body. In the 15th century, it was revealed that the unmarried women used to walk naked without feeling ashamed, but upon knowing a man and committing in marriage, they changed by beginning to cover themselves. This can be embedded in the portraits where for instance, the and The Birth of Venus represents the single women while the Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci and the Portrait of the Young Lady represent the married women. In these paintings, there is a transition from nudity to covered women to represent the social values.

Women were also viewed as innocent and pure embedded in their beauty. The concept of nudity evident in these portraits can also be a representation of innocence since it is linked to the lack of shame as a result of nakedness. This can be associated with children who are considered to be innocent as they do not feel ashamed while showing their nakedness. Although nudity is a representation of the loss of social values, it signified the potential to become clothed in the future and turn become a civilization. This is an exact representation of what renaissance meant to the Italian culture; it was a period of rebirth and reconstruction of their values. In this case, the shift from naked women to clothed women, therefore, marked the transition that occurred in that time.


In the analysis above, it is evident that through the Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci, Piero di Cosimo has a significant contribution in understanding the role of women in the renaissance. Through the contribution of other renowned painters such as Sandro Botticelli, it makes it easy to grasp a deeper understanding of the role of women in the 15th century. The paintings, therefore, show that there was a transformation on how women were perceived before and during the renaissance. The portraits show that women were submissive wives with innocence compared to that of a child and they were also desirable objects with high-level beauty and elegance. Therefore, the portraits show the ideal characteristics that define the status of the outlook of an ideal woman of the period.


Demeter, Bela Jozsef. "Reappraising Piero Di Cosimo's Serpents: The Role of Vipers in Renaissance Florence". Renaissance Studies 32, no. 4 (2017): 638-659. doi:10.1111/rest.12359.

Ettle, Ross Brooke. "The Venus Dilemma: Notes on Botticelli and Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci". Source: Notes in the History of Art 27, no. 4 (2008): 3-10. doi:10.1086/sou.27.4.23207901.

Glinsman, L. A., and L. C. Hayek. "A Multivarlite Analysis of Renaissance Portrait Medals: An Expan...

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