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Renaissance women’s portraiture served a narrative purpose for the patron, always informed by whether the painting’s subject was alive at the time of painting. My own interest in posthumous portraiture came from a single sentence in renowned Renaissance scholar Patricia Simons’ article on the identification of Tornabuoni women in the Santa Maria Novella. She wrote of Ghirlandaio’s fresco of Giovanna Tornabouni, painted after her death, in which he copied a profile portrait done during her lifetime but decided to further idealize it.[1] Renaissance portraiture was never accidental, and female Florentine portraiture of the era was particularly riddled with symbolism. So much so that people’s images in portraiture were more of a collection of symbols rather than a likeness, without any modern sense of individual identity.[2] In this paper I will be examining the differences in portraiture of Florentine noblewomen done during their life, versus portraiture completed posthumously. I will argue that the further idealization and anonymization of Giovanna Tournaborni in posthumous portraits is both reflecting and perpetuating her objectification through display culture, while also representing her family’s hope for her in a Christian afterlife. I will expand this by discussion of posthumous portraits of the adjacent noble family, the Medici, discussing portraits of Bia de Medici and Maria Salviati.

[1] Patricia Simons. "Giovanna and Ginevra: Portraits for the Tornabuoni Family by Ghirlandaio and Botticelli." I Tatti Studies 14/15 (2011), 115

[2] Maria H. Loh. "Renaissance Faciality." Oxford Art Journal 32, no. 3 (2009), 346