Portrait of a Woman

painting of portrait of woman in blue and white dress with sheer wrap and pearl earring and necklace

Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641)
Portrait of a Woman, ca. 1640
Oil on canvas
29 7/8 × 23 1/4 in. (75.9 × 59.1 cm)
Speed Art Museum, Louisville; Museum Purchase, Preston Pope Satterwhite Fund

This outstanding portrait offers valuable evidence of Van Dyck’s method during his English period. The treatment of the face is highly finished and refined, but the woman’s bust and hand await finishing glazes, and there are extensive areas of unpainted canvas that suggest a shawl wrapped around her body. As with many other works from his London studio, Van Dyck must have painted his sitter’s face from life, resulting in a halo still visible around her head. A workshop assistant would probably have completed the painting of the background and draperies before Van Dyck applied a few final touches. If the occasional identification of the sitter as Rachel, Countess of Southampton, is correct, then work on the portrait may have been interrupted by the sitter’s death in childbirth.

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