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Godfried Schalcken, A Woman singing and a Man with a Cittern

Key facts
Full title A Woman singing and a Man with a Cittern
Artist Godfried Schalcken
Artist dates 1643 - 1706
Date made about 1665-70
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 26.6 × 20.4 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG998
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Woman singing and a Man with a Cittern
Godfried Schalcken

This painting sets out to tease us: we are clearly invited to wonder about the nature of the relationship between the two figures. They sit close and seem deeply comfortable in each other’s presence; there is a hint of embarrassment in the young woman’s reaction to our gaze. She looks up slightly startled. While she meets our eye, she does not seem comfortable with our presence.

Schalcken does offer some subtle suggestions as to the nature of their relationship. A painting in the background shows a pair of naked legs. In the foreground, the artist has gone to great trouble to depict the sensuous silk, velvet, fur and lace of the young woman’s coat and dress, and also her glowing cheek, bare arms, neck and cleavage. The pink rose on the table also signals romantic love. As with any flirtation, nothing is certain, but the hints are there.

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