Lady with an ermine

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci met Cecilia Gallerani in Milan in 1494 while both were living in Castello Sforzesco, the Palace of Ludovico " Il Moro" Sforza. She was the Duke's mistress; young and beautiful (she was only 15 years old), Cecilia played music and wrote poetry. When he was commissioned to paint her portrait in 1496, he represented her holding an Ermine either because her name, Galle, means Ermine in Greek or because Ludovico Sforza's emblem was "L'Ermellino"

When Ludovico Sforza married Isabella D'Este Cecilia had to leave the Palace but took the portrait with her. Il Moro gave her a dowry and a castle outside Milan where she spent the rest of her life with her husband Count Pergamino.