Pieter Paul Rubens

Portrait of Lady-in-Waiting to the Infanta Isabella

Portrait of Lady-in-Waiting to the Infanta Isabella
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Author: Pieter Paul Rubens
Portraiture, Painting, Oil on panel, 64x48 cm
Origin: Flanders, Mid-1620s

The traditional title of this portrait derives from a 17th-century inscription in an unknown hand on a preparatory drawing by Rubens: "Infanta's Waiting-maid in Brussels." It has been suggested that the Hermitage painting is in fact a posthumous idealised portrait of the artist's elder daughter, Clara Serena , who died aged just 12 years old, although there is no documentary evidence for this. The girl wears a strict black dress with a snow-white ruff, in the Spanish style. The perfect oval of the gentle face stands out amidst the goffered ruff, like some perfect flower with fragile petals. Serious and thoughtful, the sitter has a somewhat dreamy look in her eyes, evidence of the artist's interest in more than just outward appearance. Rubens here captured the characteristic features of youth: modesty, trustfulness, sincerity and purity. His marvellous technical virtuosity cannot but amaze the viewer: he builds up fine layers of paint to create an effect of translucence usually found only in watercolour, conveying the velvet soft texture of the softly blushing skin and the moistness of the eyes. With the gentlest of touches with a fine brush he marks out the individual hairs, the outline of the mouth and the eyebrows. This portrait is unique in Rubens's work, an outstanding psychological portrait, and is one of the most inspired and poetic portrait images in 17th-century Western European art.

Style: Baroque
Source of entry: Crozat Collection, Paris, 1772
Exibition: Flemish Art: 17th century

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