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An Old Woman seated sewing
Johannes van der Aack
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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.

Key facts
Artist Johannes van der Aack
Artist dates 1635/6 - after 1680
Full title An Old Woman seated sewing
Date made 1655
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 108.8 x 82 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated and inscribed
Acquisition credit Presented by Henry J. Pfungst, 1894
Inventory number NG1397
Location in Gallery Not on display
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