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Giovanni Bellini
Italian, Venice, about 1470
Pen and brown ink

3 7/16 x 3 1/2 in.

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A young woman with long, curly hair wrestles open the jaws of a lion. The play of light and shadow across her belted dress emphasizes the rounded curves of her body, while Giovanni Bellini's simple yet powerful portrayal of her wrestling grip emphasized his skill with contrasts. He drew the woman's delicate curls with circular strokes, subtly different from the looser, curving lines of the lion's mane. Bellini displayed a confident and assured touch unusual for such a small-scale work.

The woman represents Fortitude, one of the four Cardinal Virtues, a symbol of endurance and strength in mythology. She is more usually shown as a warrior, wearing a helmet and holding a shield, spear, or sword. Scholars do not know the purpose of this drawing, but because of its small size, it was likely made for a miniature or manuscript illumination.