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A Woman with Prayer Beads
Netherlandish
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A well-dressed young woman gazes out from this portrait. Her chemise seems to be embroidered in black and gold at the neck and cuffs. The golden beads among other whitish ones that hang from her girdle are probably a rosary, a devotional aid often used for prayer.

We don‘t know who the woman is or the identity of the rather incompetent painter. The portrait has been attributed to Catharina van Hemessen, but it doesn’t look much like the two portraits by her in the National Gallery’s collection; admittedly, all are very small and not very expertly done. Here, the woman’s head and hands are very large in proportion to her torso; the sitters in Catharina’s portraits are more naturalistically proportioned and their hands better drawn.

The sitter’s turned-back sleeves and the girdle tied around her waist with the beads attached were fashionable in the 1540s. It’s hard to say where the picture was painted; it may have been in Antwerp or elsewhere in the southern Netherlands.

Key facts
Artist Netherlandish
Full title A Woman with Prayer Beads
Date made 1540s
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 24 × 17.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Miss Julia E. Gordon, 1896
Inventory number NG1860
Location in Gallery Gallery A: Paintings 1250-1600
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