Lucrezia Agliardi Vertova

oil painting of an elderly woman, dressed in black, and wearing a white veil standing behind a stone parapet

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Lucrezia Agliardi Vertova, dated 1557
Oil on canvas
36 x 27 in. (91.4 x 68.6 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Theodore M. Davis Collection, Bequest of Theodore M. Davis, 1915 (30.95.255)
Inscription: LVCRETIA NOBILISS. ALEXIS ALARDI / BERGOMENSIS FILIA HONORATISS. / FRANCISCI CATANEI VERTVATIS / VXOR DIVAE ANNAE ALBINENSE / TEMPLVM IPSA STATVENDV CVRAVIT. / M.D.LVII. [Lucrezia, daughter of the most noble Alessio Agliardi of Bergamo, wife of the most honorable Francesco Cataneo Vertova, herself founded the church of Sant’Anna in Albino. 1557].

 

The inscription credits the noblewoman Lucrezia Agliardi Vertova with founding, in 1525, the Carmelite church and convent of Sant’Anna in Moroni’s native Albino, where the portrait hung until the Napoleonic suppressions of the late eighteenth century. Widowed at a young age, Vertova appears to have been a tertiary of the convent. The longstanding identification of her as its abbess is unsupported by documentary evidence. She wears a brown dress, clasped partlet, and veil that are appropriate to her social standing and not, as has been proposed in the past, the costume of a nun. Rendered with visible brushstrokes, her wrinkled skin and goiter contrast with her smooth hands. The discordance suggests Moroni’s use of stand-in models, painting from life his sitters’ faces at a separate time than the rest of the portrait.