Fra Filippo Lippi (Italian, Florentine, ca. 1406–1469)
Tempera on wood
25 1/4 x 16 1/2 in. (64.1 x 41.9 cm)
Inscribed on cuff: LEALT[À]
Marquand Collection, Gift of Henry G. Marquand, 1889 (89.15.19)
One of the greatest Florentine portraits of its time, this work is groundbreaking on several counts, not least in that it is the earliest surviving double portrait in Italian art. Although the coat of arms under the man's hands cannot be definitively identified, it is most likely that of the Scolari family of Florence, and the couple are probably Ranieri Scolari and Angiola di Bernardo Sapiti, who married in 1436. The bride is wearing the sumptuous clothing and jewelry of a newlywed. Her overdress is lined with fur, and the sleeves of her costly underdress are woven with loops of gold. Her headdress—known as a sella—is studded with pearls, which appear elsewhere in abundance, spelling out lealtà (loyalty) on the drapery flowing over her wrist.
Numerous questions about this work continue to puzzle scholars: Is the woman a bride, a new mother, or perhaps commemorated in death? (The possible answers involve the suggested dates of the painting.) Why is the man shown as a subsidiary figure, and why do their gazes not meet? Is it possible that the man's placement was inspired by a passage from the Song of Solomon (2:9) interpreted as an allegory of the marriage of Christ and Mary, or the Church: "Behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, showing himself through the lattice"?