Rogier van der Weyden – Portrait of a Lady (c. 1460)

I think I have a girl crush. There, I said it. I find myself completely mesmerized by this mysterious woman in Portrait of a Lady. When you look at her, at first, you notice how wrong the proportions of her body are, with her narrow shoulders, thin waist and very small hands. Those stand in stark contrast to the size of her head, headdress and towering hairstyle. Set against a deep blue-green background lacking in detail, it is her face that ultimately draws you in. No makeup. Pale. Full, luscious lips. Her eyes are looking down with a contemplative gaze. I wonder what she’s thinking about.

I think she’s married. There is a wedding band on her ring finger, with another golden ring, embossed with a small cross, on her left pinky. Gold is also present at her waist, adorning her belt buckle. I feel particularly drawn to the realism of her face. All the sophistication goes into the clothes and accessories, revealing her upper class status, while her face remains so natural. I even like those slight lines under her eyes; it’s refreshing and unusual to admire them during these Photoshopped and suntan frenzied times. It’s not their mere presence, but also a certain vulnerability that they convey – poor sleep, worries or a consequence of her paleness.

Rogier van der Weyden - Portrait of a Lady
Rogier van der Weyden – Portrait of a Lady (c. 1460), oil on panel

I know, she’s not probably the type who you’d expect to stir passions in others, but I can sense a frailty and authenticity in her that simply pull me in. The irony that Dutch artist Rogier van der Weyden depicted her body following the Gothic ideal of elongated, narrow forms does not elude me.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Lignum Draco says:

    It’s a beautiful painting. The detail is fascinating. Thanks for helping me to see it all. To me, this one is all about her face.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gabriela says:

      For me it’s all about the face too. That headdress is quite of a nuisance. Thank you!


  2. Eric Wayne says:

    she also has a rather large bottom lip, OK enormous as compared to the top one. Aaaand her pupils don’t line up, as her eyes are looking are looking in different directions like a chameleon. That’s all normal for the time though (and I’m extra-sensitive to it right now since I’m doing portraits and all I see is my own flaws), and van der Weyden is a phenomenal artist.

    Humble artists of today can take some small comfort in the old masters making some anatomical blunders, or so we tell ourselves knowing they were mostly deliberate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gabriela says:

      I didn’t really mind the pupils and the lower lip, though I initially thought her ear was way too high. In spite of all of this, it’s still encouraging to see that he could pull off a striking portrait. Perfection is boring.

      Liked by 1 person

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