Exhibitions/ Art Object

Portrait of a Woman

Ferdinand Bol (Dutch, Dordrecht 1616–1680 Amsterdam)
Oil on canvas
34 3/8 x 28 in. (87.3 x 71.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Theodore M. Davis Collection, Bequest of Theodore M. Davis, 1915
Accession Number:
Not on view
This is one of three portraits of women by Bol inscribed 1642, the earliest known date on paintings by him. The Dordrecht artist studied with Rembrandt about 1636–41, and then became one of Amsterdam’s most successful portraitists. Despite the rich display of lace and jewelry in this picture its most appealing aspect is the sitter’s sense of character, as in Rembrandt’s portraits of about the same time.
Bol was a highly successful artist in Amsterdam, but like several slightly later pupils and followers of Rembrandt he came from the South Holland city of Dordrecht. His teacher there is not named in documents, but Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp (1594–1651/52), father of Aelbert Cuyp (1620–1691) and the most prominent painter in Dordrecht at the time, is a likely candidate. Bol probably went to study with Rembrandt in Amsterdam in about 1636, and he appears to have remained with him until about 1641. Like Rembrandt, Bol specialized in portraits and history pictures.

This portrait of an unidentified woman is one of Bol's three earliest known dated paintings, all of 1642. The others are a similar portrait of a woman (perhaps in her mid-twenties) in the Baltimore Museum of Art and a portrait of a middle-aged woman in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. The date on the MMA work, formerly read as "1643", was revealed by microscopic examination of the worn inscription.

It is likely that a number of male portraits by Bol dating from the early 1640s are now lost or unidentified, and a pendant to the MMA painting may probably be counted among them. The emphasis given here to the sitter's dress, with its cascading layers of lace, and to her abundant jewelry, would be typical of a Dutch portrait made to commemorate a betrothal or marriage. The ring on her left hand may be a betrothal ring, which was often worn on the little finger. Though apparently independent female portraits feature similarly lavish costume, pair portraits were far more common in the seventeenth century. Also, the sitter turns slightly to her right—where a pendant male portrait conventionally would have been placed—and holds her closed fan in a position that invites the viewer's eye to move in the same direction.

[2010; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Signed and dated (left center): f. Bol fecit / 1642
sale, "Property of a Lady of Rank, and other sources," Christie's, London, February 25, 1893, no. 62, as "Portrait of a Lady, in black dress, lace collar and sleeves, holding a fan in her left hand," by F. Bol, signed and dated, for £346.10.0 to M. Colnaghi; [Wallis & Son, French Gallery, London, 1893; sold for £750 to Davis]; Theodore M. Davis, Newport, R.I. (1893–d. 1915; his estate, on loan to the MMA, 1915–30)
Worcester Art Museum. "Winter Exhibition," Winter 1898–99, no. 35 (lent by T. M. Davis).

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Winter 1903–4, no catalogue? (lent by Theodore M. Davis) [see Chalfin 1903].

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Hudson-Fulton Celebration," September–November 1909, no. 3 (lent by Mr. Theodore Davis, Newport).

Nantucket. Kenneth Taylor Galleries. "Realism," June 26–July 31, 1949, no catalogue?

New York. Hunter College. "Dutch Celebration," April 27–May 11, 1953, no catalogue?

University Art Museum, University of California at Berkeley. "Dutch Masters from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," November 25, 1969–January 4, 1970, checklist no. 2.

Houston. Rice University. "Dutch Masters from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," January 18–March 1, 1970, checklist no. 2.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.

P. C[halfin]. "Pictures in the Fourth Gallery." Museum of Fine Arts Bulletin 1 (November 1903), p. 31, as among the pictures lent to the museum by Theodore Davis.

Wilhelm R. Valentiner. The Hudson-Fulton Celebration: Catalogue of an Exhibition Held in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1909, vol. 1, p. 4, no. 3, ill. opp. p. 4, as dated 1643, "the last figure nearly illegible".

Joseph Breck. "L'art hollandais à l'exposition Hudson-Fulton à New York." L'art flamand & hollandais 13, no. 2 (1910), p. 56 [published in Dutch in Onze Kunst 17 (January 1910), p. 12], considers the golden tone to reflect the first style of Rembrandt.

Bryson Burroughs. "The Theodore M. Davis Bequest: The Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 26, section 2 (March 1931), pp. 15–16, as "unusually delicate".

Alan Burroughs. "Some Shadowgraphs of Bol and Rembrandt." Creative Art 10 (June 1932), pp. 457–60, figs. 4, 8 (shadowgraph detail), suggests that "the portrait was begun and perhaps finished with more delicacy than it now seems to possess," and observes that "the hair originally covered part of the forehead at the sides, [and] that the outline of the cheek was more sensitive".

George Isarlov. "Rembrandt et son entourage." La renaissance 19 (1936), p. 34, records it as dated 1643.

Millia Davenport. The Book of Costume. New York, 1948, vol. 2, p. 618, no. 1641, ill. (cropped).

Albert Blankert. Ferdinand Bol (1616–1680): een leerling van Rembrandt. PhD diss., Rijksuniversiteit te Utrecht. The Hague, 1976, p. 238, no. A 123 [revised in Ref. Blankert 1982], as dated 1643, but catalogued by the museum as 1642; states that he saw only the first figure, "1 . . . ".

Albert Blankert. Ferdinand Bol (1616–1680): Rembrandt's Pupil. Doornspijk, The Netherlands, 1982, pp. 56, 138, no. 122, pl. 131, as "executed with the same thoroughness as the 'Portrait of an Old Lady' [Gemäldegalerie, Berlin]"; dates it 1643 but records its inscription as "f Bol f. / 16 . . ".

Walter Liedtke in Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Aspects of Connoisseurship. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, "Paintings, Drawings, and Prints: Art-Historical Perspectives."New York, [1995], pp. 23, 141, no. 43, ill. (color), as one of Bol's earliest known independent works, perhaps depicting a newlywed; notes that there was probably a pendant male portrait.

Walter A. Liedtke in The Taft Museum: Its History and Collections. Vol. 1, European and American Paintings. New York, 1995, p. 160, as signed and dated 1642; cites it in his dismissal of "A Young Man in a Feathered Beret" as an early work by Bol.

Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. 45–48, no. 10, colorpl. 10.

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