A Lady Of Rank As Saint Bibiana – Bartholommeo Montagna

ABOUT 1450-1523

It was the fashion in the Renaissance for persons of quality to have themselves painted with the attributes of their patron saints. This young lady holds a palm leaf in the right hand and an ugly short dagger pierces her left breast through the jeweled strip of ornament that edges her green bodice. The palm and dagger are the symbols of Saint Bibiana, a young Roman lady who suffered martyrdom in the reign of Julian the Apostate, first scourged and then pierced with a dagger. The name of the person who posed for our picture must then have been Bibiana and that is all we know of her except what the portrait tells us about her good looks and her fondness for jewels, pearls particularly. She wears a long string of them about her shoulders, a necklace, and others in the little cap that holds her hair in place and in clasps for her braid.

The picture is from the Hainauer Collection. The frame is worthy of remark.