La fornarina (The Portrait of a Young Woman) is a painting by the Italian High Renaissance master Raphael, made between 1518 and 1519. It is oil on panel with 86 x 58 cm dimensions, located in Room IX of the Borghese Gallery.
In Olimpia Aldobrandini’s two inventories (1626 and 1682), the art work is attributed to Raphael. It is, however, a copy after the famous portrait entitled La Fornarina, now in the Galleria Barberini in Rome
Another copy, attributed to Giulio Romano, came to the Galleria Borghese with the fidei-commissum of 1833. This work of art has been recently ascribed to Raffaellino del Colle. It is likely that the picture was within the painter’s studio at his death in 1520, which it was adjusted and after that sold by his assistant Giulio Romano. In the 16th century the picture was within the house of the Countess of Santafiora, a Roman noblewoman, and in this way got to be property of the Duke Boncompagni and then of the Galleria Nazionale which still has it.
The woman is customarily recognized with the fornarina (daughter of baker) Margherita Luti, Raphael’s Roman lover, in spite of the fact that this has been questioned. The lady is pictured with an oriental style hat and uncovered breasts. She is making the gesture to cover her left breast, or to turn it with her hand, and is illuminated by a strong light coming from outside.
The woman’s left arm features a narrow band carrying the signature of the artist, RAPHAEL URBINAS
It has been proposed that the right hand on the left breast uncovers a cancerous breast tumor masked in a classic posture of love. Another theory is that she is touching her left breast to remind herself which side she last fed her child on, the child being Raphael’s.
This work of art represents the woman portrayed with bare breasts. Her belly covered merely by a transparent cloth, the young woman wears an armlet on her left arm bearing the inscription in gold letters on a blue ground. The same colors embody the woman’s turban, which reflects the light, as does the pearl on the jewel hanging from this.
Reputed to have been Raphael’s lover and traditionally known as Fornarina, the woman is the daughter of a Sienese baker called Francesco who lived in the Santa Dorotea quarter of Rome
The provenance of the work of art, located in the Borghese Gallery and dated 1518/19, is unknown.