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#36 Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with the Ermine: 500 Years of History and Mystery

Updated: May 9, 2022

A Conversation with Laura Morelli

Saturday, February 5th 2022

The recording of this session is available for $10.

Author and art historian Laura Morelli returns to the Studiolo to discuss one of the most compelling paintings in all of art history. In Renaissance Italy, wealthy families paid artists to paint the likenesses of their wives and daughters. In these portraits, the point was to showcase the wealth of a woman’s husband or father. A portrait of a new bride was standard fare for a Renaissance artist, but painting a mistress instead was an unusual request. Laura will explain what it was that prompted Ludovico Sforza of Milan to commission Leonardo da Vinci to paint his pregnant mistress, Cecilia Gallerani, rather than his fiancée—she’ll even talk about the various theories about that enigmatic white creature in Cecilia's lap!

Laura’s talk takes us from 15th century Milan to the present day, across Europe and across the centuries to Paris, Poland, and finally to World War II Germany, where Leonardo’s Portrait of the Lady with the Ermine stood in the crosshairs of Hitler’s obsession to possess this work of art along with so many of the world’s masterpieces. Laura Morelli holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University and is an award-winning, bestselling author of historical novels. She has covered art and travel for TED-Ed, National Geographic Traveler, Italy Magazine, CNN Radio, and other media, and is the author of the popular Authentic Arts guidebook series that includes “Made in Italy.” Her historical novels, including bestsellers “The Night Portrait” and “The Gondola Maker,” bring the stories of art history to life. Laura’s latest historical novel, “The Stolen Lady,” tracks the untold story of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, from 16th century Florence to France during World War II and her present home at The Louvre.

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