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This painting is an outstanding example of the abstract elegance characteristic of Rogier's late portraits. Although the identity of the sitter is unknown, her air of self–conscious dignity suggests that she is a member of the nobility. Her costume and severely plucked eyebrows and hairline are typical of those favored by highly placed ladies of the Burgundian court.

The stylish costume does not distract attention from the sitter. The dress, with its dark bands of fur, almost merges with the background. The spreading headdress frames and focuses attention upon her face. Light falls with exquisite beauty along the creases of the sheer veiling over her head, and gentle shadows mark her fine bone structure. In contrast to the spareness of execution in most of the painting, the gold filigree of her belt buckle is rendered with meticulous precision. The scarlet belt serves as a foil to set off her delicately clasped hands.

Rogier excelled as a portrait painter because he so vividly presented the character of the persons he portrayed. The downcast eyes, the firmly set lips, and the tense fingers reflect this woman's mental concentration. Rogier juxtaposed the strong sensation of the sitter's acute mental activity to his rigid control of the composition and the formality of her costume and pose, presenting the viewer with an image of passionate austerity.


Probably Leopold Friedrich Franz, Prince of Anhalt [d. 1817], Gotisches Haus, Wörlitz, near Dessau.[1] Probably Leopold Friedrich, Prince of Anhalt [d. 1871]; Friedrich I, Duke of Anhalt [d. 1904];[2] Friedrich II, Duke of Anhalt, Gotisches Haus, Wörlitz, and Herzogliches Schloss, Dessau; sold 1925 through (Bachstitz Gallery, The Hague) to (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris);[3] purchased December 1926 by Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.; deeded 30 March 1932 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1937 to NGA.

Exhibition History
Exposition des primitifs flamands et d'art ancien, Hôtel de Gouvernement Provincial, Bruges, 1902, no. 108.
Flemish and Belgian Art 1300-1900, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1927, no. 33.
Loan Exhibition of Flemish Primitives, F. Kleinberger Galleries, New York, 1929, no. 8.
Virtue and Beauty: Leonardo's 'Ginevra de' Benci' and Renaissance Portraits of Women, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2001-2002, no. 13, color repro.
Wauters, A. J. Die vlämische Malerei. Leipzig, n.d.: 64.
Firmenich-Richartz, E. "Hugo van der Goes: Eine Studie zur Geschichte der altvlämischen Malerschule." Zeitschrift für christliche Kunst 9 (1897): 385.
Friedländer, Max J. In Ausstellung von Kustwerken des Mittelalters und der Renaissance aus Berliner Privatbesitz. Exh. cat. Kunstgeschichtlichen Gesellschaft, Berlin, 1899: 7.
Wauters, A. J. Le Musée de Bruxelles. Tableaux anciens. Notice, guide et catalogue. Brussels, 1900: 60-61.
Hulin de Loo, Georges. Bruges. Exposition des tableaux flamands des XIVe, XVe, et XVIe siècles. Catalogue crtique. Ghent, 1902: 25, no. 108.
Hymans, Henri. "L'Exposition des primitifs flamands à Bruges." GBA 28 (1902): 294, repro. 293. (Repr. as a book, Paris, 1902: 62, repro. 59.)
Friedländer, Max J. "Die Brügger Leihausstellung von 1902." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 26 (1903): 71.
Friedländer, Max J. Meisterwerke der niederländischen Malerei des XV. und XVI. Jahrhunderts auf der Ausstellung zu Brügge 1902. Munich, 1903: 6, no. 12, pl. 12.
Weale, W. H. James. "The Early Painters of the Netherlands as Illustrated by the Bruges Exhibitiion of 1902." The Burlington Magazine 1 (1903):202, repro. 209.
Reinach, Salomon. Répertoire de peintures du moyen âge et de la Renaissance (1280-1580). 6 vols. Paris, 1905-1923: 2(1907):484, no. 2, repro.
Voll, Karl. Die alniederlädische Malerei von Jan van Eyck bis Memling. Leipzig, 1906: 73, 289.
Winkler, Friedrich. "Rogier van der Weyden." In Thieme-Becker. 37 vols. Leipzig, 1907-1950: 35(1942):472, 475.
Laban, Ferdinand. "Ein neuer Roger: Begleitworte zu seiner Veröffentlichung." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst N.F. 19 (1908): 58, 60, 64, repro. 55.
Winkler, Friedrich. Der Meister von Flémalle und Rogier van der Weyden. Strasbourg, 1913: 53-55, 176.
Friedländer, Max J. Von Eyck bis Brugel. Berlin, 1916: 175.
Conway, Sir Martin. The Van Eycks and their Followers. London, 1921: 136.
Burger, Willy. Roger van der Weyden. Leipzig, 1923: 50-51, 70, pl. 48b.
Friedländer, Max J. Die altniederländische Malerei 14 vols. 1924-1937. Berlin, 1924: 2:41, 101, no. 29-a, pl. 28. (English ed., 14 vols., 1967-1976. Leiden, 1967: 2:26, 66, no. 29-a, pl. 55.)
Art News 24 (10 October 1925): 6.
Art News 24 (30 January 1926): 1, repro.
Destrée, Jules. "Roger van der Weyden (Roger de la Pasture)." Revue de l'Art 49 (1926): repro. 145.
Holmes, Sir Charles. "Portraits by Roger van der Weyden." The Burlington Magazine 48 (1926): 122-128, pl. B.
Hulin de Loo, Georges. "Robert Campin or Rogier van der Weyden? Some Portraits Painted between 1432 and 1444." The Burlington Magazine 49 (1926): 273.
Stein, Wilhelm. "Die Bildnisse von Roger van der Weyden." Jahrbuch der königlich Preussischen Kunstsammlungen (Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen) 47 (1926): 13-14.
Demonts, Louis. "L'Exposition d'art flamand à la Royal Academy de Londres." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 15 (1927): 262.
Hulin de Loo, Georges. "Hans Memlinc in Rogier van der Weyden's Studio." The Burlington Magazine 52 (1928): 172-177, pl. 4B.
Jamot, Paul. "Roger van der Weyden et le prétendu Maître de Flémalle." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 18 (1928): 276-277, repro. 281.
Burrows, Carlyle. "Exhibitions of Flemish Primitive Painting." Parnassus 1 (November, 1929): 6-9, repro.
Rutter, Frank. "Notes of the Month." International Studio 94, no. 389 (October 1929): 65, repro.
Singleton, Esther. Old World Masters in New World Collections. New York, 1929: 166-168, repro.
Destrée, Jules. Roger de la Pasture van der Weyden. Paris and Brussels, 1930: 180-181, pl. 137.
Valentiner, Wilhelm R., ed. Unknown Masterpieces in Public and Private Collections. London, 1930: n.p., pl. 35.
Tietze, Hans. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935: 127, repro. (English ed., Masterpieces of European Painting in America. New York, 1939: 127, repro.).
Cortissoz, Royal. An Introduction to the Mellon Collection. Boston, 1937: 34-35.
Hulin de Loo, Georges. "Rogier van der Weyden." In Biographie Nationale de Belgique. 29 vols. Brussels, 1938: 27:col. 241.
Schöne, Wolfgang. Dieric Bouts und seine Schule. Berlin and Leipzig, 1938: 61.
Mather, Frank Jewett, Jr. Western European Painting of the Renaissance. New York, 1939: 77, fig. 43.
De Tolnay, Charles. "Flemish Paintings in the National Gallery of Art." Magazine of Art 34 (1941): 186, 200, fig. 18.
Duveen Brothers. Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941: no. 169, repro.
Held, Julius S. "Masters of Northern Europe, 1430-1660, in the National Gallery." Art News 40, no. 8 (June 1941): 11, 13, repro.
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 214, no. 44.
"World Masterpieces Lend Supreme Distinction to National Gallery of Art." The Washington Star (16 March 1941): F6.
Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 240, repro. 42.
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Masterpieces of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1944: 86, color repro.
Davies, Martin. National Gallery Catalogues. Early Netherlandish School. London, 1945: 112, under no. 1433 (2d ed. 1955: 127; 3d ed. 1968: 171).
Davenport, Millia. The Book of Costume. 2 vols. New York, 1948: 1:306, no. 819, repro.
Musper, Theodore. Untersuchungen zu Rogier van der Weyden und Jan van Eyck. Stuttgart, 1948: 23-24, 59, fig. 66.
Puyvelde, Leo van. The Flemish Primitives. Brussels, 1948: 27, pl. 45.
Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 55, repro.
Winkler, Friedrich. "Rogier van der Weyden's Early Portraits." Art Quarterly 13 (1950): 215.
Beenken, Hermann. Rogier van der Weyden. Munich, 73-75, fig. 92.
De Tolnay, Charles. "Remarques sur la Joconde." La Revue des Arts 2 (1952): 23-24.
Panofsky Erwin. Early Netherlandish Painting: Its Origins and Character. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 1953: 1:292, 295, 477, 2: pl. 226, fig. 367.
Davies, Martin. Primitifs Flamands. Corpus. The National Gallery, London. 3 vols. Antwerp, 1954: 2:198, under no. 60.
Genaille, Robert. From Van Eyck to Brueghel. Translated by Leslie Schenk. New York, 1954: 46, 49, color repro.
Tietze, Hans. Treasures of the Great National Galleries. New York, 1954: 112, 124, pl. 196.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1956: 36, repro.
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 59
Broadley Hugh T. Flemish Painting in the National Gallery of Art (Booklet no. 5 in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC). Washington, 1960: 4, 16-17, color repro.
The National Gallery of Art and Its Collections. Foreword by Perry B. Cott and notes by Otto Stelzer. National Gallery of Art, Washington (undated, 1960s): 25, color repro. 11.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 100, repro.
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 139.
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1:80, color repro.
Frinta, Mojmír S. The Genius of Robert Campin. The Hague, 1966: 81.
The Women I Love: These Lovely Immigrants Are Part of Our National Treasure.” This Week Magazine (January 9, 1966): 10, color repro.
Eckardt, Götz. Die Schönheit der Frau in der europäischen Malerei. Berlin, 1967: 11, pl. 11.
Cuttler, Charles D. Northern Painting, from Pucelle to Bruegel: Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth Centuries. New York, 1968: 125, fig. 145.
European Paintings and Sculpture: Illustrations (Companion to the Summary Catalogue, 1965). Washington, 1968: 126, no. 44, repro.
Whinney, Margaret. Early Flemish Painting. New York and Washington, 1968: 66, pl. 29.
Blum, Shirley Neilsen. Review of The Genius of Robert Campin by Mojmír Frinta. In The Art Bulletin 52 (1970): 435.
Cooke, Hereward Lester. The National Gallery of Art in Washington. Munich and Ahrbeck/Hanover, 1970: 62-63, color fig. 28.
Fingerlin, Ilse. Gürtel des hohen und späten Mittelaters. Munich, 1971: 198.
Schulz, Anne Markham. "The Columba Altarpiece and Roger van der Weyden's stylistic development." Münchener Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst, series 3.22 (1971): 104, fig. 39.
Davies, Martin. Rogier van der Weyden. London, 1972: 222, 241, pl. 107.
Schabacker, Peter H. Review of Rogier van der Weyden by Martin Davies. In The Art Quarterly 35 (1972): 424.
Campbell, Lorne. Review of Rogier van der Weyden by Martin Davies. In Apollo 98, no. 137 (July 1973): 64.
Künstler, Gustav. "Vom Entstehen des Einzelbildnisses und seiner frühen Entwicklung in der flämischen Malerei." Wiener Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte N.S. 27 (1974): 47-48, fig. 13.
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 374, 375, no. 44, repro.
Kerber, Ottmar. "Rogier van der Weyden." Giessener Beiträge zur Kunstgeschichte 3 (1975): 48-49, 61.
Eisler, Colin. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: European Schools Excluding Italian. Oxford, 1977: 58, under K2088 (1961.9.28).
Swaan, Wim. The Late Middle Ages: Art and Architecture from 1350 to the Advent of the Renaissance. Ithaca, 1977: 116, 118, repro.
Campbell, Lorne. "L'art du portrait dans l'oeuvre de Van der Weyden." In Rogier van der Weyden. Rogier de le Pasture. Exh. cat. Musée Communal de Bruxelles, 1979: 58, 62, repro. 60.
Watson, Ross. The National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1979: 47, 49, pl. 31.
Campbell, Lorne. Van der Weyden. New York, 1980: 9-10, 78, pl. 7.
Scott, Margaret. The History of Dress Series. Late Gothic Europe, 1400-1500. London, 1980: 163, 165, 167, 241, fig. 93.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 126, no. 116, cover, color repro.
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 435, repro.
Snyder, James. Northern Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, the Graphic Arts from 1350-1575. New York, 1985: 138, fig. 134.
Hand, John Oliver and Martha Wolff. Early Netherlandish Painting. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1986: 241-246, color repro. 243.
Campbell, Lorne. Renaissance Portraits: European Portrait-Painting in the 14th, 15th, and 16th Centuries. New Haven, 1990: 96-97, color fig. 111.
Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 157, color repro.
National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 39, repro.
Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History. New York, 1995: 628, fig. 17-13.
Tansey, Richard G. and Fred S. Kleiner. Gardner's Art Through the Ages. 10th ed. Fort Worth, 1996: 663, color fig. 20.11.
Dworetzky, John P., Psychology, 1997, no. 280-281, repro.
Richler, Martha. National Gallery of Art, Washington: A World of Art. London, 1997: 42-43, color fig. 25.
Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History, 2 vols. Revised ed. New York. 1999: 2:630-632, fig. 17.16.
Southgate, M. Therese. The Art of JAMA II: Covers and Essays from The Journal of the American Medical Association. Chicago, 2001: 72-73, 210, color repro.
Virtue and Beauty: Leonardo's Ginevra de' Benci and Renaissance Portraits of Women. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2001-2002: no. 13.
Honour, Hugh and John Fleming. The Visual Arts: A History. 6th ed. New York, 2002: 440, fig. 10.16.
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 42-43, no. 29, color repro.
Honour, Hugh and John Fleming. A World History of Art. 7th ed. New York, 2005: 428-429, fig. 10.16.
Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History. Rev. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, 2005: 597-598, color fig. 17.17.
Gariff, David, Eric Denker, and Dennis P. Weller. The World's Most Influential Painters and the Artists They Inspired. Hauppauge, NY, 2009: 23, color repro.
Technical Summary

The panel is composed of a single board with vertical grain. There is an unpainted margin on all sides of the panel and a slight barbe at the edge of the painted surface. Incised lines at the edge of the painted surface were probably guidelines for the application of the ground. The painting is in excellent condition. It was cleaned about the time it left the Anhalt collection[1] and received a surface cleaning in 1980. There is a fine overall crackle pattern and some inpainting along the crackle. A few small, local losses on the lady's veil and kerchief, on her proper right sleeve, and to the left of her ear have been inpainted. There is some abrasion in the ear.

No underdrawing was made visible by infrared reflectography apart from a single stroke within the fur collar and parallel to its edge on the right side and another horizontal stroke in the little finger of the top hand. The lady's silhouette was originally even more slender than at present, since the thickly applied paint of the background extends into the area of the belt on either side. This change is visible in raking light, while the extreme slenderness of the original silhouette is evident in the x-radiograph.

[1] According to a note on Friedläat;nder's photograph of the painting, III.1926/Gereinigt Duveen Mellon," in Friedlander archive, R.K.D., The Hague.

Explore This Work

The gold filigree decorating her belt, the folds creasing her transparent veil, her delicate lashes, all seem very real. Yet we sense that this woman is at some remove from the world and from us. Her down-turned eyes and nervously pressed fingers suggest introspective emotion. Triangular forms abstract and flatten her image, giving it a formal elegance that underscores her aristocratic reserve.

A view of the Burgundian court

Chroniques de Hainaut. Royal Library of Belgium.

A view of the Burgundian court
The miniature on the dedication page of the Chroniques de Hainaut is believed by many to have been painted by Rogier. If so, it would be his only surviving manuscript illustration. Philip the Good stands beneath the canopy. With him, on his left, are the 15-year-old son who would succeed him as duke, Charles the Bold, and probably his older, illegitimate son, Antoine, the Grand Bastard of Burgundy.

Her name is lost to us, but she was likely at the court of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. The court was the mid-15th century’s most magnificent and established tastes for virtuosity and refinement across Europe. Rogier van der Weyden, celebrated by contemporaries for the invention and intensity of his religious paintings, produced a number of portraits at the Burgundian court at the end of his career, from about 1450 until his death in 1464, apparently including this one.Their spare formalism and mannered aspect were well matched to an aristocratic ideal of control, which was itself no less an expression of power than the lavish displays of luxury textiles, gold, and gems for which the dukes of Burgundy were known.   

Sharp, interlocking shapes produce a severe balance of form in this portrait. Notice how the fall of the veil over the sitter’s shoulders responds to the V of her neckline, and how her body divides the deep blue-green of the background into framing triangles. The alternation of black and white in her dress, bodice, and veil are relieved only by a red belt (which x-rays show was altered from her original even more slender waist). The shallow planes of her face, painted in a spare, linear manner, are made more abstract by the exaggerated proportions created by then-fashionable plucked brows and hairline. She is defined more by contours than by three-dimensional forms, except in her full, sensual mouth.

Slideshow: Portraits by Rogier van der Weyden and Workshop

Many of Rogier’s portraits were parts of devotional diptychs, a form he helped popularize. In these hinged two-panel works, the sitter, typically on the right, was depicted in prayerful attitude toward a religious image, usually the Virgin and Child, on the opposite panel. This painting, however, may have been an independent portrait because the woman’s hands are not steepled in prayer.

Saint Luke Drawing the Virgin

Rogier van der Weyden, Saint Luke Drawing the Virgin, c. 1435-40. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Luke was the patron saint of painters, and it is possible that Rogier used his own likeness for the saint's face.

About the Artist

Little is known about the life of Rogier van der Weyden. While a few of his paintings can be documented, not a single signed or dated work survives. He was, however, together with Jan van Eyck, the greatest painter working in the Low Countries in the 1400s. His inventiveness and emotional intensity influenced other artists well into the 16th century.

Born in Tournai in 1399 or 1400 to a family of the rising merchant class, he may have received a university education. He began his artistic career uncharacteristically late for the period, entering the workshop of Tournai’s foremost painter, Robert Campin, when he was already 27 years old. In 1432 he was accepted by the guild as an independent master, and by 1435 had moved to Brussels, his wife’s home, where he was appointed official city painter the following year. He lived in Brussels for the rest of his life but during the Jubilee year of 1450 he traveled to Italy and enjoyed an international reputation.

Rogier combined the detailed and meticulous style of his teacher Campin and of Van Eyck, whose work he knew, with an emotional resonance that responded to contemporary religious trends such as the devotio moderna (which stressed meditation and inner life) and the writings of Thomas à Kempis, which emphasized a direct and personal connection with Mary, the saints, and the sufferings of Christ. Rogier’s graceful and expressive figures are set in stark settings and shallow planes; austerity lends them a haunting quality.   

Rogier’s most celebrated works are large altarpieces, but he also painted smaller devotional pictures and secular subjects, including civic murals (now lost) for the city of Brussels. Toward the end of his career he created a number of elegant portraits for the Burgundian court, many of which were paired in diptychs with devotional panels.

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