I thought this painting was just the right size for a portrait. Perhaps this is a painting equivalent to a 5×7 family photo, just nice for a frame. Its a fascinating portrait of a woman with Paget’s disease (a malformation of bone) making her really rather ugly. It’s actually part of a pair but the ‘Portrait of an Old Man‘ is elsewhere (and not quite so ugly).
Many think that this is a satire on older ladies trying to recreate their youth and find love. She is pictured in clothing inappropriate for her age but what we, as modern viewers, wouldn’t see is that her clothes were not fashionable at the time, they were fashionable when she was young! I guess todays equivalent would be an 80 year old in a mini skirt, no one wants to see that!
It is beautifully painted. Whilst standing in front of it I noticed no discernible brush marks. Also, the surface is very smooth even though it looks cracked you cannot see that against the light.
In the post card comparison, the background is the same colour but the face has slightly less pink to it. The downloadable reproduction (above) seems a lot darker.
This painting is also a good lesson for researching in more than one place. For example, the more scholarly Oxford Online resource still suggests that this is inspired by Leonardo and not the other way around!
I don’t know why but she reminds me a little bit of Hugh Laurie (sorry Mr Laurie), I think its the large upper lip.
I really enjoyed watching this short National Gallery podcast: