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View full screen - View 1 of Lot 4. Portrait of a seated lady, half length, with her head resting in her hand.

Circle of Paul van Somer

Portrait of a seated lady, half length, with her head resting in her hand

Lot Closed

October 21, 04:04 PM GMT


10,000 - 15,000 USD

Lot Details


Circle of Paul van Somer

Portrait of a seated lady, half length, with her head resting in her hand

oil on panel

panel: 26⅝ by 22⅜ in.; 67.6 by 56.8 cm.

framed: 32 by 38 in.; 81.3 by 96.5 cm.

Private collection, Los Angeles.

The lady in this beautiful portrait engages the audience with a pensive glance and a slightly sly, intriguing smile. Elegantly attired in silk, lace, and embroidered fabrics, she sits and leans her head against her hand as her elbow rests on a cushion. The sitter's flushed cheeks pleasingly contrast her golden hair and fair skin, further enhancing her décolletage. In addition to her pearl jewelry, she wears two rings on her left hand. The sitter's thoughtful and contemplative pose indeed recalls the popular Elizabethan and Jacobean fashion for melancholic imagery, sometimes referred to as Penseroso. Similarly posed female sitters, for example, are recorded in a portrait of a lady, said to be Mary Queen of Scots, sold at Sotheby’s on 9 July 2015,1 as well as in Paul van Somer's portrait of Frances, Lady Willoughby with her son Lord Francis (circa 1618-1620).2

Although the artist of the present canvas has yet to be identified, this work can be situated close to the hand of the Flemish artist Paul van Somer, one of the leading court painters active in England during the reign of King James I. Van Somer counted many royal and noble sitters among his clientele, including the King and his wife, Anne of Denmark, the latter of whom became one of the artist’s most important patrons.  

Compositionally, this painting relates to a work of similar dimensions today in a private American collection.3


1. Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby’s, 9 July 2015, lot 185 (as Circle of Robert Peake the Elder), for $144,164 (here). 

2. Paul van Somer, Frances, Lady Willoughby with her son Lord Francis, 5th Lord Willoughby of Parham, Suffolk (1614-1666), oil on canvas, 110.5 by 94 cm, exhibited in London, Weiss Gallery, 25th Anniversary Exhibition, 24 June - 10 July 2010, no. 122. 

3. Oil on panel, 62.5 by 50 cm, bearing a false signature and date: C.J. Fecit / 1626. Image available upon request.