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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The portrait based on Joanna of Aragon was created by the Italian painter Raphael in 1518 during the High Renaissance period

Pope Leo X was the one who commissioned this painting and presented it in 1518 to King Francis 1 of France. So who was Joanna of Aragon? She was Queen of Naples and lived between the years 1454 to 1517 and was King Ferdinand 1 of Naples second wife.

The portrait by Raphael depicts Joanna of Aragon seated three-quarters length and dressed in an exquisite thick red velvet dress reminiscent of early 16th century fashion.

She faces the viewer, her right hand touching the fur around the shoulder and neck and the left hand lying on her lap. Not to forget the jewels that adorn the brim of her hat. A dark background is featured behind her.

Raphael employed the oil painting technique in this portrait. He was using drying oils like walnut oils or linseed in many of his works. Using oil in his paintings gave Raphael the chance to bring out the greater depth and diversity of colors in his artwork compared to other mediums. He used canvas material in his painting of this portrait.

Raphael's features the portrayal of famous beautiful women in the 16th century from noble families like Joanna of Aragon in this portrait. Notably, King Francis I of France, who received the painting, was renowned for collecting the portraits of beautiful women.

Her deep red dress in the artwork acts to symbolize the color of love with Joanna of Aragon seated in a palatial surrounding. Some of the other renowned painting works by Raphael include The School of Athens which is one of Raphael’s most famous works and considered a masterpiece.

It was created around 1509 and 1511 is a component of Stanze di Raffaello or the four Raphael Rooms. This painting happened when Raphael was commissioned to decorate the reception rooms found in Vatican’s Apostolic Palace. The Madonna and Child which was created in 1503 and presently it can be found in the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California.

Another significant work is the Portrait of a Cardinal. The painting was created in 1510 in Rome, the setting being Pope Julius II court. The Cardinal depicted in the portrait is said to be any of Trivulzio, Cybo, Bibbiena Alidosi.

Raphael’s paintings were known for their clarity, his precise drawings and high-quality finishes ensured that his works brought out the real picture of the individuals he portrayed in his artwork. Firmly etching his name in Western art history.