PROPERTY FROM A EUROPEAN PRIVATE COLLECTION
Thence by inheritance.
The portrait has its roots in the portraiture of Hans Holbein the Elder, after Dürer perhaps the most influential artist in Germany at the time, as may be seen by comparison with his Portrait of a woman formerly in the Cook collection.1 It is however more closely comparable with portraits by Strigel, particularly the Portrait of a woman (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), the Portrait of Eva von Schwarzenberg (Private collection) and the Portrait of a woman (Collections of the Princes of Liechtenstein, Vaduz).2
The style of dress recalls that of the ex-Cook Holbein. The sitter would appear to be of a high social standing, probably the wife of a rich burgher. The headdress, with its stitched band reminiscent of those in many other Swabian portraits of the late fifteenth century, such as the anonymous Portrait of a woman of the Hofer family at the National Gallery, London, denotes her married status.3 She holds a sprig of forget-me-nots (as does the sitter in the Hofer portrait) and bittersweet nightshade, the former the traditional signifier of remembrance, while the latter though more ambiguous in its meaning is also included as a decorative motif on her dress and would seem thus to have a deeper significance than is so far apparent. It is a flower that features in Dürer’s famous print Melancholia and was traditionally used to treat convulsions and epilepsy. Its double usage here may, however, simply reflect in some way the sitter’s identity.
1. N. Lieb and A. Stange, Hans Holbein der Ältere, Berlin 1960, pp. 69–70, cat. no. 34, reproduced fig. 118.
2. G. Otto, Bernhard Strigel, Munich and Berlin 1964, p. 106, cat. no. 82, reproduced fig. 149; p. 105, cat. no 79, reproduced fig. 146; p. 106, cat. no. 84, reproduced fig. 151.
3. C. Baker and T. Henry, The National Gallery. Complete lllustrated Catalogue, London 1995, p. 651, reproduced.
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