What the Ermine Saw: The Extraordinary Journey of Leonardo da Vinci’s Most Mysterious Portrait

Books on Tape. May 2022. 5:45 hrs. ISBN 9780593508329. $47.50. FINE ARTS
Looking serenely out of the canvas is an intriguing young woman with a white ermine, the nickname of her lover, Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. The painting, commissioned by the duke, is by Leonardo da Vinci and known as the Lady with an Ermine. The “Lady” was Cecilia Gallerani, a Renaissance woman who was well educated, scholarly, a talented composer, and great beauty. Today the portrait resides in a museum in Kraków, Poland. Almost as interesting as the portrait itself is the question of how it got there. For nearly two centuries, it was unseen and its location uncertain. In 1800, it reappeared in the possession of Poland’s Princess Izabela Dorota Czartoryska, and its ownership became a matter of diplomatic war between Poland and Russia. The portrait remained in the Czartoryska Collection until World War II when the Nazis stole it. The circuitous and convoluted history of the painting is fascinating.
VERDICT A story of beauty, art, and history well told by Collinsworth (Behaving Badly: The New Morality in Politics, Sex, and Business) with a clear and pitch-perfect narration by Cassandra Campbell.
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