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Catharina van Hemessen, Portrait of a Woman

Key facts
Full title Portrait of a Woman
Artist Catharina van Hemessen
Artist dates 1527/8 - after 1566?
Date made 1551
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 22.8 × 17.6 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Presented by Mrs D.E. Knollys, 1934
Inventory number NG4732
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Portrait of a Woman
Catharina van Hemessen

Catharina van Hemessen is the earliest female Flemish painter for whom verifiable work survives – we can see her name here in a Latin inscription in the top right corner. We don't know who the sitter was, but she was evidently wealthy. Her shirt, visible at her neck and wrists, is ornamented with black embroidery; the bodice of her dress is dark grey corded and watered silk; and her sleeves seem to be red velvet. Her glove is decorated with black embroidery and golden ornaments. Her belt is made of gold and black beads, and black cylinders with gold ends.

A small dog with what seem to be bells on its collar is perched rather insecurely under her arm. Portraits of women with pet animals were quite common in the sixteenth century.

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