Leonardo da Vinci Lady with an Ermine, ca. 1490
Oil on wood panel, 54 cm × 39 cm
National Museum, Kraków, Poland
Who is this Lady?
Cecylia Gallerani not only was a significant person at the court of Sforza but also Ludvico Sforza’s lover (who was known also as ‘Ludvico il Moro’). As she was well educated, surrounded by Milano’s intellectual elite, she carried on philosophical debates. Moreover, she spoke fluent Latin and ancient Greek, she wrote a poetry and was considered as one of the most prominent Italian poets of that time.
Lady with a Weasel or Lady with an Ermine?
For a long time this painting was known as ‘Lady with a Weasel’, but finally the second version replaced it. In the summer, the ermines have chocolate – brown colour of the upper coats, so it’s easy to mistake them with the weasels. Hopefully, in the autumn their upper coats change colours to white so that we can distinguish the animals. After all, it’s quite difficult to identify this specific animal from the painting. Referring to da Vinci’s drafts of dog’s or bear’s paws, it seems like mentioned above ermine (or weasel) evolved from these early works.