Portrait of a Woman, Probably Susanna Lunden (Susanna Fourment, 1599–1628)

Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, Siegen 1577–1640 Antwerp)

ca. 1625–27
Oil on wood
30 1/4 x 23 5/8 in. (76.8 x 60 cm), including added strip of 3 3/4 in. (9.5 cm) at bottom
Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 1976
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    This intimate portrait probably represents a sister of Helena Fourment, Rubens’s second wife and the youngest of the Antwerp silk merchant Daniel Fourment’s seven daughters. Most scholars favor an identification with Susanna Fourment (1599–1628), who married Arnold Lunden in 1622. Another Rubens portrait is thought to depict Clara Fourment (born 1593) and reveals a family resemblance, but the faces of four Fourment sisters remain unknown. The present figure is richly dressed in a manner no widow—to dismiss another theory—would consider. The veil, similar to a Spanish mantilla, was shifted by Rubens in the course of work and its earlier contours have become visible over time.

  • Catalogue Entry


  • Provenance

    Joanna Ludovica Josepha du Bois, Antwerp (until 1777; her estate sale, Antwerp, July 7, 1777, no. 1, for fl. 1,900); comtesse d'Oultremont (by 1831–her d.; upon division of her property, to du Bois d'Edeghem); comtesse du Bois d'Edeghem; baron Gustave de Rothschild, Paris (bought in Paris between 1865 and 1870; given to Leonino); his daughter, baronne Berthe Juliette Leonino (until d. 1896); her daughter, baronne Antoinette Leonino (until 1959; sold to Hoogendijk); [D. A. Hoogendijk, Amsterdam, 1959–66; sold to Wrightsman]; Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, New York (1966–76; cat., 1973, no. 21)

  • References

    Karl Woermann. Katalog der Königlichen Gemäldegalerie zu Dresden. Dresden, 1887, p. 317, under no. 971, cites it as better, according to Max Rooses, than the portrait in Dresden.

    Max Rooses. L'Oeuvre de P. P. Rubens. 4, Antwerp, 1890, pp. 162–63, no. 938, as in the collection of baron Gaston [sic] de Rothschild; identifies the sitter as Helena Fourment, calls it entirely by Rubens, dates it about 1635, and gives provenance information.

    Karl Woermann. Katalog der Königlichen Gemäldegalerie zu Dresden. 2nd ed. Dresden, 1892, p. 319, under no. 971, calls it an autograph work of which the Dresden portrait is a repetition.

    W[oldemar]. v[on]. Seidlitz. "Review of Ref. Woermann 1892." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 16 (1893), p. 375, rejects an identification of the sitter as Helena Fourment [see Ref. Rooses 1890].

    Max Rooses. Rubens. London, 1904, vol. 2, p. 606 [French ed., "Rubens, sa vie et ses oeuvres," (1900–1903)], as a portrait of Helena Fourment wearing "a mantilla with a gold border, Spanish-fashion".

    Adolf Rosenberg. P. P. Rubens, des Meisters Gemälde. 1st ed. Stuttgart, 1905, p. 482, ill. p. 331 [4th ed. by Rudolf Oldenbourg, 1921, p. 491, ill. p. 58], rejects Rooses's [see Refs. 1890 and 1904] identification of the sitter as Helena Fourment; dates it about 1630–35.

    Edward Dillon. Rubens. London, [1909], p. 223, pl. 294, attributes it entirely to Rubens, dates it 1620–30, and calls it "Portrait of a Lady".

    Emil Schaeffer. Van Dyck, des Meisters Gemälde. 1st ed. Stuttgart, 1909, p. 518, as a portrait of Helena Fourment by Rubens.

    Rudolf Oldenbourg. P. P. Rubens, des Meisters Gemälde. 4th ed. [1st ed. 1905]. Stuttgart, 1921, p. 491, ill. p. 58 [1st ed. by Adolf Rosenberg, 1905, p. 482, ill. p. 331], dates it about 1612 and calls it "Portrait of a Lady".

    Rudolf Oldenbourg. Peter Paul Rubens. Munich, 1922, pp. 142, 144, rejects the identification as Helena Fourment and suggests a date of about 1614.

    August L. Mayer. "The Portrait of Helene Fourment in a Black Mantilla by Rubens." Burlington Magazine 67 (November 1935), p. 224, publishes a replica (private collection, France) that "betrays in every way its superiority to the Rothschild [MMA] panel"; states that Ludwig Burchard believes that the MMA work, while inferior to this replica, may also be genuine, "although its present condition does not permit a definite judgment".

    Jacob Burckhardt. Rubens. Vienna, 1938, p. 201 n. 90, p. 436, ill. p. 174, calls it "Woman with a Pearl Necklace" and dates it about 1612.

    Julius S. Held. Letter to Anne Poulet. November 28, 1967, believes it to represent Susanna Fourment and dates it to the early 1620s; proposes that the veil is a sign of mourning, as Susanna's first husband died before 1621.

    Michael Jaffé. Letter to Theodore Rousseau. January 25, 1968, states that it surely does not represent Helena Fourment and that it is possible, though not entirely convincing, that the sitter is Susanna Fourment; from reproductions, suggests a date in the mid-1630s.

    Stella Mary Newton. Letter to Anne Poulet. April 5, 1968, states that the sitter's veil is Indian in type, and certainly does not indicate mourning; on the basis of costume tentatively dates it about 1620 but suggests that it was started during one period and finished at another.

    Stella Mary Newton. Letter to Anne Poulet. June 5, 1968, responding to changes revealed by x-ray photographs, suggests that the picture was left unfinished by Rubens and taken up later by another hand; states that the veil and hairdressing seem "against the taste of the seventeenth century".

    Denys Sutton. "Pleasure for the Aesthete." Apollo 90 (September 1969), p. 232, no. 5, ill. p. 233.

    Everett Fahy in "Paintings, Drawings." The Wrightsman Collection. 5, [New York], 1973, pp. 195–204, no. 21, ill. p. 197 (color), figs. 1–3 (details), 5 (x-radiograph detail), identifies the sitter as probably Susanna Fourment, dates it about 1620, and suggests that a drawing of the same sitter in the Albertina, Vienna, may be a study for the picture.

    Katharine Baetjer in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1975–1979. New York, 1979, p. 50, ill.

    Walter A. Liedtke. "Flemish Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum—I: Rubens." Tableau 6 (November/December 1983), pp. 85–87, fig. 7.

    Walter A. Liedtke. Flemish Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1984, vol. 1, pp. 172–76; vol. 2, colorpl. XII, pl. 65, observes that elegant black dress of this kind was common in countries under Spanish domination or influence, and does not imply mourning, as has been suggested [see Ref. Held 1967]; adds that the absence of a wedding or engagement ring can also not be used to date the portrait, as "the wearing of rings, whether wedding rings or not, was the exception rather than the rule"; on the basis of costume, the sitter's appearance, and the style of the picture, suggests a date of about 1625–26, when Rubens was especially active as a portraitist, particularly of his family and friends.

    Michael Jaffé. Rubens: catalogo completo. Milan, 1989, p. 297, no. 867, ill., dates it 1625–28.

    Introduction by Walter A. Liedtke in Flemish Paintings in America: A Survey of Early Netherlandish and Flemish Paintings in the Public Collections of North America. Antwerp, 1992, pp. 26, 362, no. 416, ill.

    Everett Fahy in The Wrightsman Pictures. New York, 2005, pp. 114–17, no. 33, ill. (color) and fig. 1 (radiograph detail).

  • Notes

    Susanna Fourment was the third daughter of Daniel Fourment, an Antwerp silk and tapestry merchant, and Clara Stappaert. She married Raymond del Monte in 1617, was widowed in 1621, and in 1622 married Arnold Lunden, a friend of Rubens. The artist married Susanna's younger sister Helena in 1630. Although Rubens is known to have painted Susanna Fourment several times, there is no certain portrait of her [see Ref. Liedkte 1984]. A copy in reverse, in the Dresden Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, has been erroneously ascribed to both Rubens and Van Dyck. Rooses [see Ref. 1890] mentions another copy, formerly in the collection of Mme Moons-Van Straelen, in Antwerp; this may be the same copy as that published by A. L. Mayer [see Ref. 1935] and sold at Sotheby's, London, July 10, 1968, no. 89.

    X-radiographs of the picture reveal that Rubens added the veil at a later time. Originally, the sitter was painted with her hair combed back behind the ear and wearing a pearl earring. The angle of the sitter's head as well as the hairstyle and pendant earring bear a marked resemblance to a drawing in the Albertina, Vienna. The drawing, inscribed "Suster van Heer Rubbens," may represent Susanna Fourment, though the identity is uncertain. On the basis of strong similarities, Fahy [see Ref. 1973] suggests that the drawing may be a study for this picture. Liedtke [see Ref. 1984] concurs that the drawing and panel depict the same sitter, but maintains that an identification with Susanna Fourment is tentative.

    The panel has been cradled.