Location: Bowdoin / Art History / Student Research / Portrait Bust of a Young Woman by Marie de'Medici

Art History

Portrait Bust of a Young Woman by Marie de'Medici

Sandra Pomerantz '00

Portrait Bust of a Young WomanThe Bowdoin College Museum of Art houses a little-known, mysterious print now given the title of "Portrait Bust of a Young Woman." Impressions of this print are rare. Only a few others are known in Paris a33 and Berlin. Scholars have claimed that this print is a portrait of and/or was created by the young Marie de'Medici. With the generous help of the Surdna Foundation Undergraduate Research Fellowship, Sandra Pomerantz and Susan Wegner, Associate Professor of Art History were able to investigate the origins and genesis of this 16th-century woodblock print. Throughout the full-time summer research project, they examined the life of Marie de'Medici,prints made during the time of the Italian Renaissance, and the specific costume, iconography, and composition of the print. Marie de'Medici, an Italian princess, later Queen of France, would have been fourteen years old in 1587, the date inscribed on the print. Her name is also part of the print itself. Many scholars have asserted that Marie could not have done the print herself, but Pomerantz's research led her to believe that Marie's authorship was quite possible, but that the assumption that the piece was a self-portrait was wrong. The costume, positioning, and configuration of the figure was not something typical of a late-sixteenth century Italian princess, nor were they similar to any self-portrait format of the time. Pomerantz concluded that the format was in line with the popular tradition of transferring images on portrait medals into the two-dimensional, easily reproducible medium of prints.

While the central focus of the project was to trace a small part of women's contribution to the arts, the path of the research widened to include many questions about late Renaissance Italian culture, costume, and education.

Portrait Bust of a Young Woman by Marie de'Medici
© Bowdoin College Museum of Art