Flora by Francesco Melzi ~ ca. 1510-15
Melzi was Leonardo da Vinci’s favourite pupil who followed the master to France, remaining with him to the end of his life. Melzi’s paintings are rarely found in the world museums. In style the Flora recalls the works of Leonardo, with the same soft sfumato used to model forms, the same elegant restraint to the colour, that soft half-smile on the lips of the sitter. In Classical mythology Flora was the wife of Zephyr, the west wind of springtime, and mother of all the plants. It is she who feeds and brings life, and thus is shown with naked breasts. The stones of the mysterious grotto in which Flora is placed are covered with various grasses and flowers. With a gracious turn of the head she is looking at a columbine or aquilegia, symbol of fertility.