The Ugly Duchess


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Beauty and Satire in the Renaissance

Emma Capron with contributions from Martin Clayton and Charlotte Wytema

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The first book to focus on one of the most recognisable Renaissance portraits, this publication repositions Quinten Massys’s ‘The Ugly Duchess’ within its original context, epitomising as it does the Renaissance’s taste for satire and fascination with the ‘grotesque’.
The Ugly Duchess celebrates Massys’s leading contribution to the rise of secular and satirical painting and explores the possibility that he drew inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings. Examining the portrait alongside that of her male companion reveals the period’s complex attitudes towards women, age and power. The Duchess’s exaggerated facial features and inappropriate clothing may suggest that Massys is inviting us to laugh at the woman’s self-delusion, but a closer reading reveals both an individual defiantly flouting convention and a painter subverting artistic expectations. John Tenniel later used the portrait as inspiration for his 1865 depiction of the Duchess in Alice’sAdventures in Wonderland, capturing the British imagination for generations.

Published by National Gallery Company/Distributed by Yale University Press

Exhibition Schedule:

National Gallery, London, 16 March–11 June 2023

Emma Capron is Associate Curator of Renaissance Painting at the National Gallery, London.
Martin Clayton is Head of Prints and Drawings at the Royal Collection Trust.
Charlotte Wytema is the Simon Sainsbury Curatorial Fellow at the National Gallery, London.


National Gallery, London, 16 March–11 June 2023

ISBN: 9781857096941
Publication Date: June 6, 2023
Publishing Partner: Published by National Gallery Company/Distributed by Yale University Press
80 pages, 9 x 10 1/2
39 color illus.

Sales Restrictions: London, UK.
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