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Portrait of Laura Dianti

copy after Vecellio Titian

(Pieve di Cadore 1488-90 - Venice 1576)

This painting is a partial replica of the portrait painted by Titian in about 1523 (Kisters Collection, Kreuzlingen). The sitter, Laura Dianti (c. 1480–1573), became the lover of Alfonso I d’Este (1476–1534) after the death of his second wife, Lucrezia Borgia (1519). The relationship, which resulted in the birth of two sons who were later legitimised by the duke, began before 1524 and culminated in marriage when the duke was on his deathbed.

Object details

Fine XVI secolo
oil on canvas
cm 34,5 x 26

Collezione Borghese, Inventario fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 24. Purchased by the Italian state, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1917, Francesco Cocchetti
  • 2021 Erredicci (diagnostics)
  • 2021 Ars Mensurae di Stefano Ridolfi (diagnostics)


This small work is one of the numerous copies made of the portrait painted by Titian in 1523 of Laura Dianti (c. 1480–1573), the morganatic wife of Alfonso I d’Este (1476–1534), wearing a ‘Turkish’ turban and accompanied by a black slave, the latter not included in the Borghese copy, which shows only the woman’s face. The original is now in the Kisters Collection in Kreuzlingen, and is signed in red on a band on her arm in the foreground: TICIANUS F.

The woman stands out against a dark background, wearing an bright ultramarine blue dress with white sleeves. Her lavish clothing is complemented by a turban embellished with gold, pearls and a cameo in a bright yellow hue.

Laura Dianti was of humble origin, daughter of a cap maker who probably lived in the Ripagrande quarter. When she was about twenty years old, she began a relationship with Alfonso I d’Este, who was by that point resolved not to marry again after the death of his second wife Lucrezia Borgia. The duke soon had the Palazzina della Rosa built for her, which he could visit via a convenient underground passageway, no trace of which has ever been found.

Two sons were born of this union: Alfonso in 1527 and Alfonsino in 1530, both of whom were legitimised by the duke in his 1533 will: Laura was not mentioned in this document, but she was left the entire Delizia del Verginese in the bequest drawn up a few days before Alfonso’s death. After her beloved’s death, Laura withdrew to her city residence, which still exists along with some of its painted decoration, where she devoted herself to raising her children and created a small court filled with artists, intellectuals, jesters and ladies.

She maintained excellent relations with the ducal court, especially with Renée of France, wife of Ercole II. The new duke accepted the presence of Dianti, but did not fully approve of her, and indeed some blame him for the concealment of the documents that would confirm her marriage to Alfonso I.

Laura, who signed her name ‘Eustochia’ as she was called by the duke, or simply ‘Laura da Este’, died on 27 June 1573 and her funeral was attended by the city officials and the entire court.

Lara Scanu