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Portrait of Caterina Balbi Durazzo


Anton van Dyck (Antwerp, 1599 – London, 1641)
Portrait of Caterina Balbi Durazzo
oil on canvas,1624
The Audience Chamber

Of the many historical figures immortalized in the rooms of the Genoese palace, the woman depicted here is the only one certainly related to the Balbi family, its originally owners. Caterina, the daughter of Gerolamo Balbi, was probably born in Genoa at the beginning of the 17th century and lived to over 80 years of age. She was therefore a first cousin of Stefano Balbi, who built the original Palazzo Balbi. She married Marcello Durazzo, possibly in 1624, but the marriage did not last long, as Marcello died in 1632. Endowed with a resolute character and a good head for business, Caterina was forced unwillingly to play a key part in the alternating financial fortunes and private life of the Balbi family. Anton Van Dyck received the sum of 373 Genoese lire from Agostino Durazzo, Caterina’s father-in-law, on 31 December 1624 as payment for portraits of the husband and wife. The artist from Antwerp, then the portrait painter most in favour with the Genoese nobility, presents the lady, then aged about 20, in sumptuous Spanish-style apparel and brings out her essential qualities. In addition to these elements of aristocratic distinction, Caterina’s face is portrayed with subtle psychological insight. The portrait of Marcello, which hung in the palace until the end of the 18th century, was sold by the Durazzo family and is now in Venice at the Ca’ d’Oro.

  • Anton van Dyck
  • 1624
  • olio su tela
  • Sala delle Udienze