Portrait of a Woman

Compared to most likenesses in the exhibition, this portrait is relatively plain, without prominent attributes that might help reveal the sitter’s identity. Nevertheless, the woman’s status and wealth are indicated through Holbein’s attention to minute details, such as her ornate rings and the pearl-headed pins that attach her bonnet to her cap and close the translucent cambric at her neck. Her costume resembles that of the younger woman in the small roundel portrait, also included in the exhibition, suggesting that this sitter might also have been the wife of an English court official. The woman’s sullen demeanor is underscored by her tense posture and tightly clasped hands, as well as the downturned corners of her mouth..

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543)
Portrait of a Woman, 1532–34
Oil and tempera on panel
Detroit Institute of Arts, bequest of Eleanor Clay Ford; 77.81