She hangs on a wall of the Prado Museum in Madrid, ever bewitching.
Who painted her?
Her husband, Andrea del Sarto, who was crazy about her, to his great bad luck.
He was one of the greatest painters of the Renaissance. Many thought he painted so well he might have rivalled the great Leonardo da Vinci. Everyone loved and respected him.
Then along came Lucrezia and Andrea lost his head. According to Giorgio Vasari, who knew her, she was no good. She mistreated Andrea’s friends and even his apprentices, and she brought out a shocking weakness in him.
What did she do that was so bad? Maybe Vasari just didn’t like her.
Andrea’s reputation as a painter was so great that the very King of France invited him to come and work for him. He gave Andrea a place to live and a splendid salary and treated Andrea as a personal friend.
One evil day Andrea got a letter from Lucrezia back in Florence. She said she missed him and was miserable. If he didn’t come right home she would—well, she would die.
Andrea ran to ask the king for permission to return to Florence. “It will only be for a short time,” he said. The king put on a very sour face. He had already had some bad experience with Italian artists.
Andrea had an idea: “Your Majesty loves great paintings, right? Well, while I’m home in Florence I can buy some good ones for you.”
That worked. The king’s face brightened. He knew he could trust the tastes of one of the world’s greatest artists to spot good paintings, and he gave him plenty of money to buy them. “Hurry back, my friend,” he told him.
Guess what happened. Andrea hurried home to Florence and was reunited with his beloved Lucrezia. They celebrated their reunion with magnificent feasts. Lucrezia told Andrea that while he was away she had been dreaming of a beautiful Tuscan villa where they could live with dignity; and she showed him her plans. He happened to have some cash (the king’s) and so he told Lucrezia her wish was his command. They began to build the beautiful Tuscan villa.
One day they ran out of funds. Andrea woke up remembering King Francis and his promise to return soon. “Lucrezia,” he told her after she had woken too. “I must go back to the king.”
“You’re not serious,” she said. “The king has already forgotten about you. And that money to him is nothing. Stay here with your little Lucrezia.” And she gave him a kiss of the kind that simply paralyzed him.
He never went back and King Francis cursed him and all Italians too.
Lucrezia did one more nasty thing. When the plague was raging through Florence Andrea fell sick. Lucrezia quickly left not only the house but Florence too. She had great fear of contagion. Andrea died alone in the house and was found days later and buried just anywhere. Lucrezia, probably because of her foresight, survived that plague and forty more years of flu-s and other common maladies.
Supposed self-portrait of Andrea del Sarto (Wikipedia public domain photo)
See Robert Browning’s famous poem, one of his dramatic monologues, in which Andrea talks to Lucrezia on a beautiful Tuscan evening.