Sandro Botticelli - Female ideal portrait

by Liliane Baab


The young woman depicted in profile embodies an ideal portrait in the mythological guise of a nymph. At first it was assumed that the representation was a fantastic creation. Later, however, it was suspected that her appearance and physiognomy were based on the noble Simonetta Vespucci, Giuliano de ́Medici's mistress, who died young. Her upper body is slightly turned towards the viewer. Her skin is pale and her look serious. The long, somewhat humped nose and curved reddish lips are in keeping with the Roman ideal of beauty.

The reddish-blond hair is elaborately coiffed. Different braids, braided pearls and ribbons, integrated jewelry and open wavy strands adorn her head. The color of the hair and the getup remind the viewer of a wasp's nest, which then connects to the young lady's last name - Vespucci (Italian Vespa).


She wears a white robe with discreet decorations and delicate folds. A braided ribbon with incorporated pearls is placed around her neck, visually enhancing the delicate collar that wraps around her neck. The piece of jewelry that she additionally wears around her neck is an amulet. It depicts the scene from Greek mythology , in which Apollo is fighting against the satyr Marsyas in a musical contest. Wearing jewelry like this was considered good manners in Florence in the 15th century and underlines Simonetta's high position. Simonetta Vespucci was considered the most beautiful woman in Florence. With this portrait, her memory is preserved, her figure is raptured and at the same time she is glorified forever.


Sandro Botticelli - Female ideal portrait

Mixed media on poplar wood, ca. 1480, 81,8 x 54,0 cm, Städel Museum in Frankfurt