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Portraits of Jacob Trip and his Wife Margaretha de Geer

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In seventeenth-century Holland, it was common for married couples to be depicted separately in paintings designed to be hung as a pair, with the woman’s portrait invariably hung to the right. This placed the wife to her husband’s left – or, as it was regarded at the time, his inferior side: marriage was a partnership steered by the man.

These portraits are particularly large examples, reflecting the status of the couple, Jacob Trip and Margaretha de Geer – who belonged to one of the richest families in Holland. They were probably commissioned by two of the Trips‘ sons, to be hung in a palatial residence which they were building in Amsterdam.

The poses are unusual. Normally we’d expect each sitter to be half turned towards the other. But Margaretha faces the viewer directly. She may be sitting on her husband’s inferior side, but Rembrandt seems to imply that she is the more active and engaged of the two.

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