La Fornarina by Raphael

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 an 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. The picture was likely within the painter’s studio at his death in 1520, which was adjusted and 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 the property of Duke Boncompagni and then of the Galleria Nazionale, which still has it.

The Woman

Even though this has been questioned, the woman is customarily recognized with the Fornarina (daughter of a baker) Margherita Luti, Raphael’s Roman lover. The lady is pictured with an oriental-style hat and uncovered breasts. She gestures to cover her left breast or turn it with her hand, which is illuminated by an intense 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 love posture. 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 a woman portrayed with bare breasts. Her belly is 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, reflecting 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.

Borghese Gallery in Rome,
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Author: Raphael


Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483-1520), known as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His artworks are famous for the clarity of form, ease of composition, and visual accomplishment of the Neoplatonic perfect of human magnificence. Along with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he shapes the conventional trinity of incredible masters of that period.

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