Certainly, it was not the rather heavy features of the Medici family, particularly evident in the queen, that had attracted Henri IV, but the scale of her dowry. Rubens nevertheless contrived to render her portrait agreeable. He disguised her now as an attractive Bellona, now as a proud horsewoman in The Capture of Juliers. The royal couple become Olympian deities in The Meeting of Marie de Médicis and Henri IV at Lyon, while The Fates Spinning Marie's Destiny and The Triumph of Truth became pretexts for a proliferation of female convexity.
Constable is one of Britain's greatest artists,He sought inspiration directly from nature for his landscape painting. In accordance with his desire for pure and unaffected representation, calm, almost realistic depictions of scenes in his native Suffolk form the larger part of his work.
His careful studies of nature are evident in this painting, which he executed around 1809. Although the scene is so still and there is no trace of sentimentality or theatricality, the painting is full of flickering light despite the cool objectivity, and this anticipates the Impressionists.
The painting was part of the High Altar in the parish church of Talavera la Vieja in Toledo. The other two paintings belonging to the altarpiece represent Sts Andrew and Peter. In this painting El Greco set the general pattern for the subject, to be repeated in the Capilla de San José, Toledo (1597-99) and at Illescas (1603-05).
Signature: Signed on the frame of the painting in the background.
Provenance: Probably identical. with no. 35 in the Amsterdam sale of 1696: "A writing young lady; very good, by the same; fl 63." Sale Van Büren, The Hague, 1808. Sale Rotterdam; 1816. Collection "Kammerman", Rotterdam, 1819-23. Sale Rotterdam, 1825. Sale Amsterdam; 1827. Sale Comte F. de Robiario, Brussels; 1837. Art market, Paris, 1907. Collection Pierpont Morgan, New York. Art gallery Knoedler, New York. Collection Lady Oaks, Nassau, Bahamas. Art gallery Knoedler, New York, 1958. Collection Horace Havemeyer; New York. Gift of Harry Waldron Havemeyer and Horace Havemeyer, Jr., to the museum, in memory of their father, 1962.
We have again a single-figure composition. A lady dressed in a yellow jacket with borders of ermine occupies the center of the composition. She is seated at a table, turned toward the left. Her right hand firmly secures the quill that she is prepared to use. In the meantime, she gazes at the viewer. This is a very elegant, though somewhat dark, interior, the only light coming from an unseen source at the left. It bathes the lady and the table, leaving everything else in a warm penumbra. One used to think that this was a portrait in disguise, an assumption that cannot be maintained in view of the quizzical expression of the sitter, who looks pensively beyond the picture frame into space. The painting on the rear wall, probably representing a skull and other paraphernalia, has plausibly been identified with a work by C. van der Meulen.
Vermeer shows himself here again as an exquisite painter of detail. The style is that of his mature years. Having abandoned the clear back wall "à la Fabritius," he envelops the composition in warm brown tonalities that foster feelings of intimacy, and for once stresses a certain degree of individualization in the model depicted.