The Lady with an Ermine, also known as the ‘Painter of Ermines’, is a painting by Leonardo da Vinci that depicts a young woman holding an ermine. The painting was commissioned by Duke Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan and patron of Leonardo’s art. It was painted in 1598 and first appeared in the market in Rome. It was bought by the Prince Adam Jerzy, son of Izabela Czartoryska, who founded the Czartoryski Museum.

During the period of the painting, the Lady with an Ermine was a prized possession. It was stolen by the Nazis and subsequently sold to the Polish state. This is the reason why the art historian Hans Frank sought to obtain the Lady with an Ermine. During World War II, Nazis stole every surviving Leonardo da Vinci painting. In the process, he managed to acquire the Lady with an erinmine and put it under the protection of the government.

After centuries of neglect and mistreatment, the Lady with an Ermine came into the hands of a Polish nobleman. He bought the painting in Italy for Cecilia Gallerani, the young prince, who later went on to become a hero of Poland’s fight for independence. His mother was an avid art collector and established the Czartoryski Museum. Its history is fascinating, but a little known fact is that it was originally bought by the Duchess of Milan.