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Gerrit Dou, Portrait of a Young Woman

Key facts
Full title Portrait of a Young Woman
Artist Gerrit Dou
Artist dates 1613 - 1675
Date made about 1655
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 14.5 × 11.7 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG968
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Portrait of a Young Woman
Gerrit Dou

When it entered the National Gallery’s collection in 1823, this painting was described as a portrait of the painter’s wife – but we now know Gerrit Dou never married. Perhaps it was something about the intimacy and sensitivity of this tiny image which led people to assume that there was a relationship between the artist and the sitter.

Though we will probably never know the name of the subject, we can tell she comes from a wealthy family. She is wearing teardrop pearl earrings as well as a pearl necklace – jewellery which was fashionable, coveted and expensive at the time. Otherwise, however, she is dressed informally in an open-necked blouse and a fur-trimmed jacket which, though a sign of wealth, was commonly worn by women in the home. Dou specialised in minutely painted scenes of everyday life, and produced a small number of tiny portraits such as this.

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