Speaker: Beverly Brown, Warburg Institute

A popular nineteenth-century nursey rhyme tells us that little boys are made of snips and snails and puppy dog tails while little girls are filled with sugar and spice and all things nice. And who could be nicer than two-year-old Clarice Strozzi, who in Titian’s portrait so sweetly shares a ring-shaped biscuit with her toy spaniel? Today, Instagram is overflowing with similar snapshots eagerly sent by adoring parents to family and friends. Such adorable images would seem to embody the essence of childhood by celebrating their subjects’ natural spontaneity. They are lasting reminders of the halcyon days of childhood innocence. It is in this vein that we might assume Clarice Strozzi’s parents commissioned her portrait in 1542. But if we look more carefully at Titian’s charming portrayal of a little girl and her dog, we soon discover that it is unlikely to have been a mere celebration of sugar and spice and all things nice.