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Johannes van der Aack, An Old Woman seated sewing

Key facts
Full title An Old Woman seated sewing
Artist Johannes van der Aack
Artist dates 1636/7 - 1682
Date made 1655
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 108.8 × 82 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated and inscribed
Acquisition credit Presented by Henry J. Pfungst, 1894
Inventory number NG1397
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
An Old Woman seated sewing
Johannes van der Aack

This was painted seven years after the ending of the Thirty Years‘ War, one of the most destructive conflicts in European history and caused in part by a power struggle between Catholic and Protestant countries. We don’t know who the woman is, or if the painting was intended as a portrait or is a sympathetic – if stereotypical – representation of age and femininity. What is unusual, and seems a confirmation of the woman’s piety and strict religious views, is the picture on the wall behind her.

Van der Aack has included a copy of a portrait of Christian, Duke of Brunswick (1599–1626), a Protestant general. He fought for the United Provinces, which became the Dutch Republic, and was a violent Protestant partisan. So it would appear that the Duke was an icon for the Protestant religion; perhaps the old woman is a serene, but usefully occupied, feminine icon offered as an example to others.

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