Allegorical Portrait of a Lady

Selections from the Nasher Museum of Art
January 31, 2008
Allegorical Portrait of a Lady
Allegorical Portrait of a Lady, 17th century, attributed to Pieter van Slingeland, Dutch (1640-1691). Oil on panel, 19 1⁄4 x 15 inches. Given in honor of Marilyn M. Segal.[/caption]

Pieter van Slingeland was highly regarded for his exquisitely produced small-scale portraits and scenes from everyday life in seventeenth-century Leiden. This painting demonstrates his smooth and delicate brushwork, particularly in the replication of the shiny silk in the woman's dress, as well as his ability to stage an elegant interior that would appeal to fashionable Dutch clients.

While the gaze of the painter is fixed on the woman, her own attention is off to the left, as if she were accustomed to being only an object of attention. Her generous adornment of pearls and satins contributes to the message of opulence.

She is herself an open book, like the one beside her on the table. With a lily in one hand and full-blown roses or peonies in the other, she appears a virgin ripe for the picking.

The astral globe, the frieze column with Cupid, and the Persian carpet covering the table indicate the worldliness of a successful merchant with a reach into exotic, faraway markets. In this image, all of his prized possessions are featured together.