Well … this is awkward. A decapitated head in a seashell surrounded by flowers. Can you hear the patron and the artist discussing this commission?
Garzoni: Grand Duchess Vittoria, thank you so much for entrusting me with your portrait. Have you considered the setting you would like?
Grand Duchess: Actually, yes. I want to be Botticelli’s Venus, emerging from the sea.
Garzoni: Good choice. We can set you on the banks of the Arno River in a seashell and use the hills of Tuscany as a backdrop.
Grand Duchess: Um, no. The hills of Tuscany have been done to boredom as a backdrop. And I prefer flowers.
Garzoni: A field of flowers?
Grand Duchess: Umm, no. More like a wreath.
Garzoni: A wreath of flowers on your head?
Grand Duchess: Ummm, no. A wreath of flowers around my portrait. Like that Rubens guy painted around the Madonna.
Garzoni: Okay, so skip the seashell emerging from the Arno and surround your portrait with flowers.
Grand Duchess: Ummmm, no. I want the seashell AND the flowers. You can skip the Arno.
Garzoni: Okaay, so a big seashell and little flowers.
Grand Duchess: Ummmmm, no. A big seashell and BIG flowers.
Garzoni: Okaaay, so a big seashell and BIG flowers surrounding you as Venus.
Grand Duchess: Ummmmmm, no. On second thought, I want to be someone else. Someone powerful. And scary.
Garzoni: Okaaaay, someone scary in a seashell surrounded by BIG flowers. May I ask, who are you hoping to scare? Your mother-in-law?
Grand Duchess: Ummmmmmm, no. My husband, that bastard. You know, he didn’t consummate our marriage for six years. Then I caught him in bed with Count de Molera and didn’t speak to him for 20 years. After we DID speak, he knocked me up. So much for pleasant conversation. I would like to cut off his head.
Garzoni: Okaaaaay, someone scary in a seashell surrounded by BIG flowers holding a head. You have two choices: Judith or Salome.
Grand Duchess: Ummmmmmmm, Judith. Salome is too slutty and pretentious. I hate it when people portray themselves in a conspicuous way, don’t you?
Garzoni: Okaaaaaay …
Just to fill in between the lines, you may want to read more about Grand Duchess Vittoria della Rovere – mother of Cosimo III de’ Medici who reigned from 1670 to 1723 as Grand Duke of Tuscany.