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Portrait of a Woman

HEEMSKERCK, Maerten van (1498 - 1574)

Portrait of a Woman

Media: oil on panel

Size: 40.5 x 33.0 cm

Acquired: 1985; Purchase

Accession Number: NMW A 235

In this portrait of about 1540 and its pendant the 'impressionistically' painted buildings and landscape in the background recall ancient Roman frescoes seen by the artist in the recently excavated Golden House of Nero. The shimmering landscapes provide a dramatic foil to the different features of the unknown couple: the reddish, well-fed man aptly set off by his rich fur collar and his palid wife, framed by a crisp white linen headdress and a black velvet gown. The sitter’s pallid, sculptural features are framed by her crisp linen headdress.  It was customary for married women of this period to cover their hair.  Like her husband in the pendant portrait, she is visibly wealthy.  A pendant portrait is one of two portraits conceived as a pair, usually of a married couple to be displayed together in a domestic setting.

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