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Anthony van Dyck, Portrait of a Woman

Key facts
Full title Portrait of a Woman
Artist Anthony van Dyck
Artist dates 1599 - 1641
Date made about 1625-7
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 74 × 60.4 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1907
Inventory number NG2144
Location Room 21
Collection Main Collection
Portrait of a Woman
Anthony van Dyck

The dark red curtain in the background gives a warm, luxurious atmosphere to this portrait and complements the sitter’s auburn hair and sparkling brown eyes. Her half smile and the rose tucked over her ear suggest an agreeable, perhaps even mischievous, character. Unfortunately, the identity of this engaging young woman is uncertain.

An old label on the back of a copy of this picture identifies the sitter as Antonia Demarini, who was born in 1603, but there are no securely identified portraits of her which would help confirm this. It has also been suggested that she is the Marchesa Cattaneo and that the picture is a pendant to Van Dyck’s Portrait of Giovanni Battista Cattaneo, also in the National Gallery’s collection. However, pendant portraits of husband and wife were almost invariably made so that they could be hung showing the couple each turned toward the other. In these two paintings the sitters face the same way, so it’s highly unlikely that they were conceived as a pair.

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