Seville's most popular painter in the later 17th century was Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.
While Murillo is well known for works with religious themes, he also produced a number of genre paintings of figures from contemporary life engaged in ordinary pursuits. These pictures often possess a wistful charm; Two Women at a Window is a striking example. A standing woman attempts to hide a smile with her shawl as she peeks from behind a partially opened shutter, while a younger woman leans on the windowsill, gazing out at the viewer with amusement. The difference in their ages might indicate a chaperone and her charge, a familiar duo in upper-class Spanish households. Covering one's smile or laugh was considered good etiquette among the aristocracy.
The convincingly modeled, life-size figures, framed within an illusionistically painted window, derive from Dutch paintings that were meant to fool the eye.
More information on this painting can be found in the Gallery publication Spanish Paintings of the Fifteenth through Nineteenth Centuries, which is available as a free PDF https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/research/publications/pdfs/spanish-painting-15th-19th-centuries.pdf
Pedro Francisco Luján y Góngora, Duque de Almodóvar del Rio, Madrid; his heirs; sold 1823 to William A'Court, later 1st baron Heytesbury [1779-1860], Heytesbury, Wiltshire; by descent to his eldest son, William Henry Ashe, 2nd baron Heytesbury [1809-1891]; by descent to his grandson, William Frederick Ashe, 3rd baron Heytesbury [1862-1903]; sold 1894 to (Stephen T. Gooden, London); purchased 3 December 1894 by Peter A. B. Widener [1834-1915], Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; inheritance from the Estate of Peter A. B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener [1860-1943], Elkins Park.
- British Institution, London, 1828, no. 2.
- British Institution, London, 1864, no. 56.
- Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1887, no. 114.
- Spanish Painting, The Toledo (Ohio) Museum of Art, 1941, 118, no. 77.
- El Espacio Privado: Cinco Siglos en Veinte Palabras, Museo Espanol de Arte Contemporaneo, Madrid, Spain, 1990-1991, 332, repro.
- Tesoros del Arte Español, Pabellón de España, Exposicion Universal de Seville, Spain, 1992, no cat. located.
- Obras Maestras de la National Gallery of Art de Washington, Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City, 1996-1997, unnumbered catalogue, 84-85, color repro.
- Murillo: Scenes of Childhood, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London; Alte Pinakothek, Munich, 2001, no. 10, repro. (shown only in London).
- Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682): Paintings from American Collections, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2002, no. 32, repro.
- Deceptions and Illusions: Five Centuries of Trompe l'Oeil Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2002-2003, no. 70, color repro.
- Murillo: The Self-Portraits, Frick Collection, New York; National Gallery, London, 2017-2018, no. 8, repro.
The support is a moderately fine, single-thread, plain-weave fabric. The original tacking margin is gone and the top and sides are slightly out of square. The window ledge is painted on a separate piece of fabric, 9 cm high, of a different fabrication from the rest of the picture. Removal of the overpaint on the added piece revealed a paint layer unrelated to the technique of the rest of the picture. A line of loss, with a thin piece of fabric inserted in the right half, suggests that the top 8 cm of the painting with original ground and paint was once folded.
The paint is generally applied over a chalk ground as an opaque paste with low impasto and broad brush marking. Pentimenti on the proper left sleeve of the standing woman and on the shoulders of the dress of the young girl show the artist working out the design of the folds. There are numerous discrete losses scattered throughout, particularly along the left, top, and right edges, throughout the background, across the faces of the two women, and in the hands and proper right arm of the young girl. The painting was cleaned, stabilized, and revarnished between 1979 and 1982.
- Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain: Being an Account of more than Forty Collections of Paintings, Drawings, Sculptures, Mss., &c.&c., visited in 1854 and 1856, ..., forming a supplemental volume to the "Treasures of Art in Great Britain." London, 1857: 388-389.
- Curtis, Charles B. Velázquez and Murillo. New York and London, 1883: 288.
- Catalogue of Paintings Forming the Collection of P.A.B. Widener, Ashbourne, near Philadelphia. 2 vols. Paris, 1885-1900: 2(1900):229, repro.
- Stirling-Maxwell, William. Annals of the Artists of Spain. 3 vols. London, 1848: 2:920-921; 3:1442, repro. 920 (also 1891 ed., 3:1091-1093, repro. 1092; 4:1635).
- Mayer, August L. Murillo. Klassiker der Kunst, 22. Stuttgart and Berlin, 1913: 215, repro. (also 1923 ed., 215, repro.).
- Mayer, August L. "Notes on Spanish Pictures in American Collections." Art in America 3, no. 6 (October 1915): 315.
- Berenson, Bernard, and William Roberts. Pictures in the Collection of P.A.B. Widener at Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania: Early Italian and Spanish Schools. Philadelphia, 1916: unpaginated, repro., as A Girl and Her Duenna.
- Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1923: unpaginated, repro.
- Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1931: 34, repro.
- Inventory of the Objects d'Art at Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, The Estate of the Late P.A.B. Widener. Philadelphia, 1935: 34, repro.
- Tietze, Hans. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935: 20, repro. (English ed., Masterpieces of European Painting in America. New York, 1939 :20, repro. ).
- Works of Art from the Widener Collection. Foreword by David Finley and John Walker. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 6, as A Girl and Her Duenna.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. Masterpieces of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1944: 80, color repro., as A Girl and Her Duenna.
- Cook 1945, 65-86, fig. 11.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1948 (reprinted 1959): 32, repro., as A Girl and Her Duenna.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1956: 34, repro., as A Girl and Her Duenna.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 115, as A Girl and Her Duenna.
- Evans, Grose. Spanish Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1960 (Booklet Number Ten in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 30, 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): 24, repro.
- Gaya Nuño, Juan A. "Peinture picaresque," L'oeil 84 (December, 1961): 58, color repro. 59.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 170, repro.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 95, as A Girl and Her Duenna.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1:210, color repro., as A Girl and Her Duenna.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 84, repro., as A Girl and her Duenna.
- Angulo Iñiguez, Diego. "Quelques tableaux de Murillo. Les femmes à la fenêtre ..., de la Galerie Nationale ...." In Evolution générale et dévelop. régionaux en histoire de l'art. 3 vols. Budapest, 1972: 2:781-784, pl. 533: 1.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 250, repro., as A Girl and Her Duenna.
- Gaya Nuño, Juan A. L'opera completa di Murillo. Milan, 1978: 103-104, color repro. front cover.
- Angulo Iñiguez, Diego. "Murillo y Goya." Goya. 148-150 (1979): 211-213, repro. 210.
- Angulo Iñiguez, Diego. Murillo: Su vida, su arte, su obra. 3 vols. Madrid, 1981: 1:452-455; 2:307-308, pl. 435.
- Kinkead, Duncan T. "Tres documentos nuevos del pintor Matías Arteaga y Alfaro." BSAA 47 (1981): 345-357.
- Brown, Jonathan. "Murillo, pintor de temas eróticos. Una faceta inadvertida de su obra." Goya 169-171 (1982): 35-43, fig. 7.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 244, no. 309, color repro., as A Girl and Her Duenna.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 290, repro.
- Kinkead, Duncan T. "The Picture Collection of Don Nicolás Omazur." The Burlington Magazine 128 (1986): 132-146.
- Brown, Jonathan, and Richard G. Mann. Spanish Paintings of the Fifteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1990: 105-109, color repro. 107.
- El Espacio Privado: Cinco Siglos en Veinte Palabras. Exh. cat. Museo Espanol de Arte Contemporaneo, Madrid, Spain, 1990: 332, repro.
- Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 199, color repro.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 86, repro.
- Southgate, M. Therese. The Art of JAMA II: Covers and Essays from The Journal of the American Medical Association. Chicago, 2001: 100-101, 212, color repro.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 170, no. 129, color repro.
- Rosenberg, Pierre. Only in America: One Hundred Paintings in American Museums Unmatched in European Collections. Milan, 2006: 108-109, 233, 239, color fig.
- Glendinning, Nigel. "Collectors of Spanish Paintings." In Spanish Art in Britain and Ireland, 1750-1920. Studies in Reception, in Memory of Enriqueta Harris Frankfort. Edited by Nigel Glendinning and Hilary Macartney. London, 2010: 54-55, fig. 14.