This painting was once thought to be by Gonzales Coques, one of the most successful portrait artists in Antwerp between the 1650s and 1680s. It is unsigned and undated, but the costume and hairstyle suggest that it was painted in about 1650, and the pose and spirited look in the sitter’s eyes are reminiscent of Coques’ work. But the use of a niche (a rectangle with an arch-shaped top) to frame a portrait head of this kind was unusual in the Southern Netherlands in the seventeenth century, and it’s possible that the picture was made after 1700. It is now considered to be by an imitator of Coques.
Uncertainty about the painting’s date and its history also make it impossible to identify the sitter. It’s likely to be a portrait of an unmarried woman. Married couples were often depicted in separate paintings that were hung next to each other. The wife was invariably shown on her husband’s left, usually turning towards him – and certainly not away from him, as here.
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