AFTER LEONARDO, PORTRAIT OF BIANCA SFORZA
Oil on Canvas Board 17.5 x 23.75 cm
HERE IS A STORY, WHICH SOME FEW MAY KNOW, AND MANY MAY NOT:
The acquirer of the original of this small painting, suspecting it to have been by Leonardo, turned sleuth. It was on vellum, a support never used by Leonardo, but a carbon test proved the vellum to be 15th century. Leonardo's works normally bear a thumb print; one was found here, but unfortunately too slight to be of use. It could have been anybody's thumb print, a forger's. The peculiar head dress claimed attention; a historian of Renaissance costume declared it to have been the fashion for a short time at the court of the Sforzas -- a time during which Leonardo was known to have worked there. The subject, then, would have been a young lady of importance, connected to the court. But who was she, and why would she have been considered a subject for Leonardo? The owner, in a process of elimination, after sifting through relevant drawings and paintings, settled on Bianca Sforza, illigitimate daughter of one of the Sforzas. She was young, beautiful, marriagiable. Noticing three small equidistantly spaced holes along the extreme lefthand edge of the vellum, the owner realized that this might have been a page taken from a book. That would explain the use of vellum. Further, that the book might have been a celebratory work, dedicated to Bianca, perhaps on the occasion of her marriage. So far, mere speculation; but now, the affair having been aired in scholarly circles, out of the blue came advice from a professor at an American university: 'Go to Warsaw, where there is just such a book.' This advice proved decisive: the book in the Warsaw archives was missing a page, the painting page matched the size of the book pages, the three holes coincided exactly with the strings of the binding. The book's contents showed it to have been a celebratory work for Bianca to mark her marriage.
History records that the marriage of the young Bianca Sforza took place, and -- sadly -- that she died not long afterwards, giving birth to her first child.