Portrait of a Young Woman with a Scorpion Chain
Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio (Attributed to)
Italian (Lombard School), c. 1467-1516
Oil on fruitwood panel
Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation
This elegant portrait surprises many CMA visitors with its stylistic resemblance to the most famous Renaissance master of them all: Leonardo da Vinci. This makes sense in context because it was painted by a loyal follower of da Vinci. Although the artist is now known with absolute certainty, but evidence points to Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, a painter from a wealthy Milanese family. The identity of the woman in the painting is even more of a mystery than the identity of the painter. It is unknown whether the titular scorpion chain across her bodice refers to her Zodiac sign, a family coat of arms, or something else entirely. One of the most exciting things about this portrait is the possibility that da Vinci himself had a hand in its execution. He was known to have helped Boltraffio complete several paintings, and X-rays have revealed a drawing underneath beneath the surface of Portrait of a Young Woman with a Scorpion Chain that may very well have been sketched by da Vinci as a guide for his student.