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Caspar Netscher, Portrait of a Lady

Key facts
Full title Portrait of a Lady
Artist Caspar Netscher
Artist dates 1635/6 - 1684
Date made 1683
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 78.5 × 62 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Presented by J.J. Humphrey Johnstone, 1935
Inventory number NG4790
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Portrait of a Lady
Caspar Netscher

A young woman sits on a stone bench in a garden. She leans on a plinth as if trying to be at ease but her bodice, stiffened with whalebone, forbids her to relax. She sits upright, her eyes alert as if expecting someone. Who she might be expecting remains a mystery, since we don't know her identity.

Orange blossom may suggest that she was a supporter of the House of Orange (in effect the rulers of the Netherlands) but it also has a long tradition as a symbol of purity and chastity, and of marriage and fertility. In the seventeenth century orange blossom was usually shown in paintings as a small bouquet; in the nineteenth century it often became a bridal headdress. On the low wall in this painting there’s a carving of two cherubs embracing, also a symbol of love and marriage.

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