Portrait of a Woman inspired by Lucretia

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The lady who leans to the side has not been conclusively identified. Dressed in an elaborate and softly painted costume of gleaming green and orange, she directs attention to a drawing held in her left hand. This shows her Roman namesake, Lucretia, about to stab herself after she had been raped by the son of King Tarquin.

The transparency of the paint reveals that Lotto originally depicted Lucretia in colour, not as a monochrome drawing. The portrait, while displaying the beauty of the sitter, also proclaims her virtue. The message is underlined by the Latin inscription on the paper on the table, taken from the Roman historian Livy: 'After Lucretia's example let no violated woman live'.

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