Woman with a Book
The consummate skill of this artist, one of the greatest Dutch portrait painters of the 17th century, is displayed in this elegant, natural representation. Its title would seem to imply it is a “genre scene” taken from the family life of a wealthy middle class lady. A lady in luxurious clothing is gracefully indicating a short poem in an open book by Jan Vos (a friend of the painter): it is a dialogue about wine between a man extolling the drink of Bacchus, and a woman recalling the harmful effects of intemperance. And the gesture of the hand would seem to underline the latter’s opinion.
However, the absence of any decor prevents this painting from being reduced to an anecdotal scene. It is quite definitely a portrait, and the painter has not concealed the high domed forehead of his model, her asymmetric eyebrows, or her face that lacks expression in spite of the beginnings of a smile. He meticulously renders the rich fabrics of her clothes (velvet, fur, silk). Her only jewellery consists of two pearl earrings. On her head, she wears a simple bagnolette of fine cambric without any lace, its whiteness enhancing her complexion. The features, clothes and opinion of this elegant bourgeois woman are an accolade to moderation against a background of colours and textures expressing sensuality.