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Peter Paul Rubens, Portrait of Susanna Lunden(?) ('Le Chapeau de Paille')

Key facts
Full title Portrait of Susanna Lunden(?) ('Le Chapeau de Paille')
Artist Peter Paul Rubens
Artist dates 1577 - 1640
Date made probably 1622-5
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 79 × 54.6 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1871
Inventory number NG852
Location Room 20
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Portrait of Susanna Lunden(?) ('Le Chapeau de Paille')
Peter Paul Rubens

This is almost certainly a portrait of Susanna Lunden (1599–1643), daughter of the Antwerp merchant Daniel Fourment, an old friend and client of Rubens. The portrait was probably made soon after her marriage to Arnold Lunden.

It’s a highly distinctive painting – the sitter’s dark, oversized eyes and the exaggerated length of her neck, as well as the background of billowing cloud and the simple colour palette all contribute to its singular character. There is something too about how the sitter is presented to us – a sense of ambiguity, perhaps. Her eyes are emphasised by the blue of the sky and her dilated pupils by the black of her hat, but she doesn’t quite meet our gaze. She seems either to have just looked away, or to be plucking up courage to glance upwards. Rubens was clearly fascinated by Lunden and, just a few years later, he married her youngest sister Hélène, who was 16 at the time (he was 52).

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