Project Description

La Fornarina

„La Fornarina“ (the baker’s daughter) is the name of a painting by the Italian Renaissance artist Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino – more commonly known as Raphael (1483-1520). Raphael is said to have had many affairs, but a permanent fixture in his life in Rome was Margherita Luti, the daughter of a baker (fornaro) named Francesco Luti from Siena. It can be said that Raphael and Margherita were in an archetypal artist-model relationship of Western tradition. Agostino Chigi, the artist’s friend and patron, became so frustrated with Raphael’s inattention to a requested commission (so great was the painter’s devotion to his mistress) that he supplied a room in his palace for Margherita so that Raphael could better focus on the on-site work. Two portraits by Raphael are identified as those of Margarita; La Fornarina, where she is naked from the waist up, and, rather more demure, La donna velata. In his later years in Rome, Raphael was one of the first Italian artists to consistently draw female figures from female models rather than the usual “garzoni” or young male assistants, and Luti probably modelled for many of the hundreds of his drawings that survive today. According to Italian artist and historian Giorgio Vasari, Raphael’s premature death on Good Friday (April 6, 1520), which was possibly his 37th birthday, was caused by a night of excessive sex with Luti, after which he fell into a fever and, not telling his doctors that this was its cause, was given the wrong cure, which killed him. Whatever the cause, in his acute illness, which lasted fifteen days, Raphael was composed enough to confess his sins, receive the last rites, and to put his affairs in order. He dictated his will, in which he left sufficient funds for his mistress’s care, entrusted to his loyal servant Baviera.