Unknown eighteenth-century painter from the Veneto

Portrait of Noblewoman Marina Nani Donà

late eighteenth century – oil on canvas, cm 98 x 80

Upon marrying Niccolò Donà in 1736, Marina Nani became the wealthy heiress of the family’s possessions that at that stage also included most part of the Barbaro inheritance.

Furthermore, her father’s stately residence on the Giudecca Island, where she had grown up, housed over three hundred and fifty artworks, which she and her three sisters inherited after their father’s death.

Shortly before her death, on 9 April 1790, Marina wrote a will leaving all her possessions to the Pio Luogo delle Penitenti of San Giobbe. However, at the end of the eighteenth century most of the one hundred and fifty paintings by great sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Venetian and Veneto artists were alienated and today I.R.E. holds the twenty-eight artworks that were unsold at the time.

In this picture, Marina Nani Donà is portrayed with symbols that might allude to Temperance, one of the four Christian core virtues. The dress she is wearing is part bright red and part light blue, perhaps referring to wine and water and to the moderating effect of water mixed with wine. In her hand she holds a bell, and next to it is a winged hourglass, two objects symbolising the inexorable flow of time.