From Renaissance paintings by Titian, Raphael and Botticelli to Picasso’s 1946 sketch of his lover, portraits of women made over the past 500 years stare back at us. Among them are virgins, housewives and goddesses: they look out from the canvas with a coy sideways glance, a challenging stare and a wistful gaze.

While many of the portraits conform to conventional ideas of beauty, some break the mould. The dishevelled hair of Da Vinci’s La Scapigliata from 1508 caused a stir, and Kazimir Malevich deconstructed the female torso in his series painted between 1928 and 1933. It is a vision that is influencing cutting-edge fashion today.

Knud Merrild reinterpreted the movie star; Amedeo Modigliani elongated his sitter’s neck; Salvador Dalí carved out his sitter’s features from a fruit dish. It is a mesmerising journey through 500 years of Western art.

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