A pair of portraits, en profil, of a man and a woman facing each other. Both sitters are depicted in a rich architectural setting. These two panels belong to a series of portraits of young men and women painted for the Monastero della Colomba in Cremona. The numerous works have surfaced over a longer period of time and share technical, stylistic and iconographic features.
Just as the others in the series, these paintings appear to have originated as celebratory wedding portraits, as the building in which they were formerly displayed may have had a different function before it became a monastery. However, it is likely that the clergy had ‘wedding portraits’ made to allude to their marriage to Christ. The group of panels is traditionally attributed to the studio of Bonifacio Bembo.
Bonifacio Bembo (Brescia 1420 - c.1482) was a Northern Italian Renaissance painter who mainly worked in Cremona. The portraits of Francesco Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti, now in the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, are the only two paintings which can be attributed to Bembo with certainty.
These two portraits must be considered explicitly here. Not only because the pair allows for Bembo to be positioned as a portrait painter, but primarily due to the jewel fastened to Bianca Maria Visconti's bodice. This jewel of pearls, rubies and diamonds surmounted by an angel is also featured in the other effigies for the Monastero della Colomba. The sitters each wear it in their hair or upon their chest. It is believed that in their first portraits for the monastery, both the men and the women were given the jewel to adorn their hair and it was not worn upon the chest until later.
The stylistically corresponding architectural details, such as the two twist-fluted columns and pointed Gothic arch, of these two portraits clearly support the view that they were produced by Bonifacio Bembo's studio for the Monastero della Colomba in Cremona.
This Monastero della Colomba portrait series must have had great influence because, in the course of the decades that followed, various similar series of portraits were produced in Cremona and its surroundings, often varying in architectural elements and size.
Roberta Aglio, ‘Le tavolette da soffitto del monastero della Colomba a Cremona’ in Arte Lombarda, Nuova serie, No. 145 (3) (2005), pp. 56-61.
Mario Marubbi, ‘Appunti sulla fortuna delle tavolette da soffitto in Lombardia’ in Pettenelle e cantinelle a Cividale fra Medioevo e Rinascimento Tabulae Pictae, Milaan 2013, pp. 108- 113