Peter Paul Rubens: Helena Fourment

Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640)
Helena Fourment
c. 1630–31
Black, red, and white chalk (retouched with pen and brown ink in some details of the head and headdress)
Samuel Courtauld Trust: Princes Gate Bequest, 1978

Having been a widower for four years, Rubens married Helena Fourment, the sixteen-year-old daughter of an Antwerp silk merchant, in December 1630. This portrait of Rubens's new bride presents Helena near life size in splendid attire, holding what appears to be a prayer book. She is shown lifting or catching her veil, which would have been suspended from the top of her striking headdress, to address the viewer with an unwavering gaze.