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After Jan Sanders van Hemessen, 'A Young Woman Writing', about 1530

Key facts
Full title A Young Woman Writing
Artist After Jan Sanders van Hemessen
Artist dates possibly documented 1519-20; died about 1556-7
Date made about 1530
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 28.2 × 24.2 cm
Acquisition credit Probably presented by Queen Victoria at the Prince Consort's wish, 1863
Inventory number NG622
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Young Woman Writing
After Jan Sanders van Hemessen

An elegant and fashionably dressed young lady is absorbed in writing a letter. She holds a quill pen. On the table next to her is a pen case, attached by brownish strings to a dark brown inkpot. We can‘t read what she is writing – the artist doesn’t seem to have intended it to be legible.

We don't know who she is, but the style of her dress suggests the picture was painted in around 1530. It may be a copy of a lost original by Jan van Hemessen, showing a young woman masquerading as Mary Magdalene, a follower of Christ who became one of the most popular saints of the Middle Ages.

The painting has been cut on all four sides and is possibly a fragment from a larger composition.

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