Seventeenth Century Lady, ca. 1895
William Merritt Chase (American, 1849–1916)
Oil on canvas; 36 1/2 x 23 3/4 in. (92.7 x 60.3 cm)
George A. Hearn Fund, 1906 (06.1220)
A consummate eclectic, Chase borrowed freely from old masters such as Frans Hals, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Diego Velázquez, and from contemporaries such as Édouard Manet, James McNeill Whistler, and John Singer Sargent. Here, he refers in the title of his painting to tradition, but shows a woman dressed in modern attire. She is seen from behind in a dark, ambiguous setting that is pierced by a sliver of light that suggests a slightly opened door. Uninterested in his model's particular identity, Chase calls attention to her gown, which he describes with expressive brushwork and subtle tones of white. Chase had painted a full-length portrait of his wife entitled Lady in White (1894; private collection), of which a critic observed when it appeared at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts: "It is little more than a study of a white satin dress against a dark background, for her face is turned from the spectator." The same could be said for this painting.