In the early 2000's, I acquired a painting from a dealer in the Netherlands. As a painter, I am satisfactorily able to decorate my own walls. As an art commentator and student of art history, aesthetics, philosophy and science, I have an evolving view about the creation of art objects. As a collector, I've acquired a small amount of other peoples art.
When I do acquire a piece, it's mostly because something catches my attention in an unusually stubborn way. It calls to me for reasons that at the time I do not fully understand. I don't give much thought to future value. It just becomes something I must have. This was such a painting, and a slice of it can be seen above.
It is a portrait.
Before purchase, I asked the dealer about the painting. I inquired about provenance, age, etc. The dealers information was sparse, but so was the price. The dealer did tell me the painting was on a panel, and they thought it might be early 20th century because of the style of the panel and frame. They told me it needed a coat of varnish, and they could do that for me for a small additional fee. I gave them the go ahead. This was a decision I would later come to regret.
When the painting arrived, I was surprised by a few of it's features. The style and construction of the painting was Flemish technique. I had already observed this when considering the purchase and this was part of it's charm. I had assumed though, that because of the subject matter and a few specific passages in the painting, that it had probably been made as a master copy from a museum piece by a painter of limited skill. These passages had seemed rather raw and flat to me. But, when the painting arrived and I first held the it in my hands it appeared of a much higher degree of unified quality than I had originally thought.
The painting was executed with perfect glazes and light opaque paint over a soft pink colored ground. The ground showed through in various spots and was utilized in an expert fashion to create the vibrant jewel like effect prominent in Flemish painting. There appeared no significant over-painting nor restoration to my eye, save perhaps the gown/trim, but I was not sure. The painting had a web of craquelure. Because the painting was in such excellent condition, I suspiciously inspected the cracking to see if it was an aging "effect" recently applied. It seemed to be authentic craquelure.
The frame holding the painting did not fit it and was a recent piece of work as the dealer surmised, but the panel was another matter altogether. While the cradle that was attached to the back of the panel was newer wood, the panel itself seemed much older. The panel appeared radial cut with beveled edges and with a dark golden glow. The surface on the front was uneven. The grain, corners, and various nicks and gouges observable on the back had been worn smooth and hard with time and handling. A newer nick in the wood revealed it to be much lighter under it's surface. My initial guess was that it might be oak.
Perhaps most important, there was a certain feeling I had about the painting. There was a "weight" to it in my hands. A certain perfection of form. The renowned Thomas Hoving, former Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and author of the book "False Impressions"(1996, Simon and Schuster) describes it this way.
"The fakebusters I know all describe a mental rush, a flurry of visual facts flooding their minds when looking at a work of art. One fakebuster described the experience as if his eyes and senses were a flock of hummingbirds popping in and out of dozens of way stations." He describes this gut reaction, this connoisseurship, as a key ability to determine a fake from an original work of art. There is a sense of a spirit of authenticity born of unity and perfection contained in a genuine artifact. Nothing seems "clunky". An ability to recognize this fluidity of perfection and unity, or any alarming and fraudulent odd quirk, might in part be cultivated through massive immersion and repeated exposure to authentic forms.
I am not an expert on Early Netherlandish art. I have not been immersed in that particular time and place in art history or exposed consistently to those pieces in person. I do have a general understanding of the time and it's contributions and a few of the works, and a few of it's stars such as van Eyck and Memling, but my interest lies more specifically and deeply with the Baroque and 20th Century painters. But I am a painter. I do know paint. I know line, value, color, form and various techniques of paint application. I've also seen my share of antique wooden objects. Something seemed odd to me about this painting. On one hand, it seemed to have a "feel" to it, a unity, an authenticity. But it seemed in too fine a condition to be incredibly old. I decided it must be a master copy of some known earlier work, and from the panels look and the craquelure might be earlier than 20th century, perhaps even early 19th or maybe even 18th century.
I searched books and the internet for a few weeks trying to locate a copy of what I had assumed would be the original image of the painting in my possession. I was unsuccessful in locating the image in books or online. It remained a mystery to me. I hung the painting in my bedroom among other paintings. Sometimes, I would look at the painting and remember, "I must look into that."
At the time all this occurred, I lived in Beverly Hills. Because I could not identify the painting, I gave her the name "Beverly". The painting continued to be admired and enjoyed, the only disappointment being that the varnish the dealer applied had begun to "bloom". While the painting had arrived to me clear, the beginning of "bloom" started to appear indicating an inept varnishing job had been applied. This bloom has grown, and the painting today displays some patchy greyish white patches on the surface. It should be an easy matter for a restorer to remove the varnish. I even thought at one point about trying this myself to practice the technique. I've decided to not do that yet, for reasons I'm about to share.
The elevated mystery.
"THERE she is!", I thought. Below is the image I saw in Linda's folder:
Christus has been increasingly recognized as an important painter and link in the story of painting for some specific reasons I will outline in a moment. Because of these reasons, and as I'm learning additional facts about Christus and Flemish Primitive painting, I am experiencing an elevated mystery surrounding the version of "Portrait of a Young Girl" that is in my possession. Let me introduce you to the version I own:
- The dimensions of the panel for the Beverly Version are slightly smaller than the Berlin Version and it measures 9 6/16 inches x 7 13/16 inches. The panel appears to be radial cut, with beveled edges, finely crafted, and in solid condition. It is a dark brown/gold hue, with a nick showing lighter color beneath the surface. It appears quite aged and worn smooth; various nicks and the grain and corners are worn very smooth. The beveled edges seems handcrafted vs. machine made. The ground covering the panel is a soft pink hue and is assumed to be traditional chalk/gesso. The painting is assumed to be in oil. One pigment appears to be vermilion Lead white seems used. The background olive-green seems fading to brown indicating possible fading yellow.
- It is executed in a high quality Flemish technique, and utilizes the ground in select places to create a jewel-like effect and other light effects in the background. The workmanship is of high quality and does not seem like student work. This seems to me a workshop copy.
- The craquelure is widespread, though fine, almost unnoticeable in many places unless held at an angle to the light. It is most pronounced in the fleshtones. It is tinier in size in the background, and wider in pattern in the black passages. It seems to exhibit authentic craquelure as in like painted panels, though not as pronounced as that in the Berlin Version photos.
- The drawing in the Beverly Version appears a direct match to the drawing in the Berlin Version with some slight exceptions, one being the bottom curve of the veil extending from the truncated hennin. In the Berlin Version this veil has more differentiation in the line. Another difference is found in the number of beads in the necklace. There are other slight differences in ornamentation. The color of the dress in the Berlin is blue, in the Beverly it is red.
- Important: Famously, the Berlin Version places the figure of the girl in an interior space. This was an important invention as historically it breaks with convention and was the first time ever done. But in the Beverly version, the girl appears with the earlier conventions of a solid background, and sitting behind an installed SILL. These significant differences between the two paintings raise interesting questions as follows:
- Petrus Christus is known for explorations in constructing space; corner devices, utilizing sills, purportedly creating the first painting in the North to use a rational, geometrically constructed single point perspective, and also with placing the first portrait ever in an interior. If the Beverly Version is a later master copy of the Berlin version, why would someone change these elements? It makes no sense. It would be like making a copy of La Giaconda in the style of Giotto. Or giving her a frown instead.
- If it is a contemporary copy or coming after the Berlin version, why would the painting go "backwards" in executing the earlier convention of a solid background and installing a sill? Also, I've read that the truncated hennin is reported to have been the height of Burgundy fashion in the 1460's. The Berlin Version is said to be made c. 1470. For these reasons, is it possible the Beverly Version copy could be of an image that predates the Berlin Version?
- Given the provenance of the Berlin Version, if the Beverly Version is from a much later era, how was it made? And why was the painting changed to install earlier conventions that the Berlin version is not known for and does not possess?
- The drawing of the face, and the general outline with a few minor exceptions appears in the photos as identical. It seems the underdrawing would have to come from the same source. It seems unlikely the Beverly Version could have been made through a sight size study or a grid transfer. It seems there must be some common source for the drawing for both paintings, if one not a copy of the other.
- Why does the form modeling in the face of the Beverly Version seem closer to earlier Christus paintings than it does in the Berlin Version?
- Multiple contemporary copies of the same image were commonly manufactured in Bruges in Christus time. Are the Berlin and Beverly Version copy contemporaries? Are there any other contemporary paintings of the Berlin copy known? Are there any other known identical images to the Berlin copy in any medium? Could the Beverly version be a copy of a different, perhaps earlier version, of "Portrait of a Young Girl" from Petrus Christus workshop?
The mysterious future.
A week ago, the extent of my knowledge had me feeling the odds of this painting being any older than the 19th or 18th centuries, were slight. It seemed to be in too fine condition. If this painting were a contemporary of the one in Berlin, it would predate the Mona Lisa and I thought it would have had to be a bit more ragged. However, I have since been told that many of the Flemish Primitive paintings ARE in excellent condition. It simply depends on how they were kept and treated over the years. So, I just don't know. I've taken the thing out of my home and popped it into a safe deposit box. Just in case. Reality has changed.
If scholars and experts decide the questions I have are valid and necessitate further exploration, scientific testing and expert examination will be required for a conclusion. That, and more time. And as more time passes, what will this painting, this object, become? Will it be decided to be of greater value both historically and monetarily? Will it simply return to my wall with my newly acquired understanding for what it really is?
Or, will I just give up and turn it into a mousepad?
Yes, it's funny how things change.
Photographic Detail. Click to view enlarged close-ups.
Flemish Primitive Painting
From the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
"The period from about 1420 to 1550 was one of astonishing and almost uninterrupted artistic achievement in the Burgundian Netherlands (Low Countries). Taking "all-bearing nature" as their guide, early Netherlandish artists extended the boundaries of painting until they seemed as limitless as the blue-tinged mountains of the distant horizons in their pictures. Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden became the most renowned painters in Europe, van Eyck acquiring legendary status as the purported inventor of oil painting (33.92ab). Works by these masters were sought by princes and merchants throughout Europe, who prized them for their remarkable qualities of verisimilitude, their technical and coloristic virtuosity, and their heightened expressive power.
"Early Netherlandish painting was nourished by a vibrant national economy and international trade. Bruges was the favored residence of the dukes of Burgundy in the fifteenth century, and Antwerp was the commercial hub of Europe in the sixteenth. The majority of the Museum's holdings in this area originated in these two cities. Modern-day princes of industry in America rediscovered the glories of early Netherlandish painting and helped to form the collections at the Metropolitan."
"Early Netherlandish portraiture spans the sacred and secular worlds. Donor portraits appear in altarpieces and are essential parts of devotional diptychs and triptychs; in these smaller works used for worship in the home, a single sitter, a husband and wife, or a donor and his patron saint face a devotional image, such as the Virgin and Child, in an attitude of prayer. There also existed a strong tradition for independent portraiture, reflecting a society that became increasingly secularized in the sixteenth century."
The expressive character of each work depended to a great degree on its intended context, as well as on the artist's sensibility. The portrait might suggest authority or aristocratic refinement (as in Rogier's portrait of Francesco d'Este, 32.100.43), or spirituality (as seen in Hugo van der Goes's Benedictine monk, for example, 22.60.53), while Memling's sitters seem to attain an areligious serenity (14.40.626-27). From the beginning, early Netherlandish artists experimented with compositional devices that might enhance the immediacy of their portraits: the corner space, the sill, the trompe-l'oeil frame. All these inventions define the sitters' space in relation to ours and make their presence more vivid. In later pictures, some of the men and women who are portrayed address us through their quality of psychological immediacy, or with a bold glance or a gesture that reaches into our space. In these ways, early Netherlandish artists pioneered the modern idea of portraiture as the record of an individual's character as well as his or her appearance, and it is small wonder that their work was admired and emulated throughout Europe."
"The artists produced mostly panel paintings, although illuminated manuscripts and sculptures were also common, especially at the higher end of the market. The paintings may comprise single panels or more complex altarpieces, usually in the form of hinged triptychs or polyptychs. The major artists include van Eyck, Campin, Dieric Bouts, Rogier van der Weyden, Petrus Christus, Simon Marmion, Hans Memling, Hugo van der Goes, Geertgen tot Sint Jans, David, Hieronymus Bosch and Breugel."
"The Early Netherlandish period coincides with the height of Burgundian influence across Europe. The Low Countries became a political and economic centre, noted for their crafts and the production of luxury goods. Driven by the success of the Burgundian empire, the region enjoyed a period of financial prosperity and became an area of intellectual and artistic free thought. The paintings of the Netherlandish masters were often exported for German and Italian merchants and bankers. Aided by the workshop system, high-end panels were mass produced both for sale on the open market (usually through market stalls at fairs) and on commission. The period corresponds to the early and high Italian Renaissance but is seen as an independent artistic culture, separate from the Renaissance humanism that characterised developments in central Italy. Because these painters represent the culmination of the northern European Mediaeval artistic heritage and incorporate Renaissance ideals, their art is categorised as belonging to both the Early Renaissance and the Late Gothic."
"With the advent of Mannerism, from the mid 1600s the work of the Early Netherlandish painters fell out of favour, and little is known of them due to paucity of surviving documentation in the official record; very little is known about even the most significant artists. Attribution is especially difficult; a problem compounded by the workshop system, which often produced multiple versions of a single work of its master. "
"In the workshop system, the master would often be responsible for painting the focal or important portions of the work, such as the face or fingers (especially in single panel portraits) of the figures, the fingers, richly embroidered clothing. The more prosaic sections would be left to the assistants, and in many works it is possible to discern abrupt shifts in style which reveal which areas were worked on by the master and which by his workshop. If the master was secure enough financially, as van Eyck was, he could dedicate his workshop to the production of copies of his commercially successful works, or on new compositions in his style. In this case, the master would usually produce the underdrawing or design. Because of this practice many surviving works are today attributed to "The workshop of..." The mid-1400s saw a huge increase in demand for art works, which were sold either from the workshop or at market stalls specializing in luxury goods. The period saw the rise of art dealers; some masters acted as dealers, attending fairs where they could also buy frames, panels and pigments."
"The majority of the works were painted on wood rather than the less-expensive canvas. The wood was usually oak, a fact that has greatly aided dendrochronological dating, while the type of oak gives clues as to the artist's location. The boards were generally cut radially so as to avoid warp, then the oak was drained of sapwood and well seasoned before being put to use. Typically the panels themselves show a very high degree of craftsmanship; Lorne Campbell notes that most are "beautifully made and finished objects. It can be extremely difficult to find the joins.""
"The Netherlandish artists replaced the traditional profile view, popular since Roman coinage and medals, with the three-quarters pose. In this angle, more than one side of the face is visible as the sitters body is—almost but not quite—directly facing the viewer, while the far ear is generally not visible. The three-quarters pose allows a better view of the shape and features of the head and allows the sitter to look out directly at the viewer. van Eyck's 1433 Portrait of a Man is an early example of the method, and is all the more notable as it its likely van Eyck himself who stares out at us. Yet the gaze of the sitter rarely engages the viewer. Although there is direct eye contact between subject and viewer, normally the look is detached, aloof and uncommunicative, perhaps to reflect the subject's high social position. There are exceptions, typically in bridal portraits or in the case of potential betrothals where the object of the works is to make the sitter as attractive as possible to the intended assessors. In these cases the sitter was often shown smiling, with an engaging, fresh and radiant expression designed to appeal to her intended.
Martin Schongauer, Portrait of a Young Woman, c. 1478. Sammlung Heinz Kisters, Kreuzlingen (Schweiz) Although van Eyck was the innovator in the new approach to portraiture, Rogier van der Weyden developed the technique and was arguably more influential on the following generations of painters. Rather than follow van Eyck's meticulous attention to detail, van der Weyden's focus was on providing a more abstract and sensual representation. He was highly sought after as a portraitist, there is a noticeable similarity in his portraits, likely because, as a labour-saving device, he used and reused the same underdrawings, that met a common ideal of rank and piety, for his works. He would then add finishing touches to highlight the facial expressions of the particular sitter. Following van der Weyden's death, Petrus Christus was the first to set his figures against naturalistic as opposed to flat featureless backgrounds."
From Flemish Primitives
"Petrus Christus is the only Bruges painter from the period between Van Eyck and Memling of whose oeuvre anything is known. The painter arrived in Bruges three years after Van Eyck's death and filled the artistic void that was left by his death. His artistic career lasted three decades in Bruges, and from this period there were thirty paintings, five drawings and one page from a manuscript attributed to Petrus Christus. Nine of these paintings are signed and dated (all between 1446 and 1457) in a style that refers to Jan van Eyck. Just as Jan van Eyck, he signed his works on the register. Seven of these signed works can be connected with other trustworthy documents. In this way they serve as the basis for the attributions of the non-signed works. Petrus Christus's painting style is eclectic. He blends influences--as well as motifs and work procedures--of Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, and the art of miniatures into a distinct style. His works hold a crucial place in the complex development of the 15th-century Flemish painting. Christus introduced the interior portrait in which he exchanged the neutral background with the interior of a room. In addition to commissions from Bruges families such as de Adornes, he received many assignments from businessmen from Spain and Italy."
"Christus was born in Baarle, near Antwerp and Breda. Long considered a student of and successor to Jan van Eyck, his paintings have sometimes been confused with those of Van Eyck. At the death of Van Eyck in 1441, it was reasoned, Christus took over his master's workshop. In fact, Christus purchased his Bruges citizenship in 1444, three years after Van Eyck's death. Had he been an active pupil in Van Eyck's Bruges workshop in 1441, he would have received his citizenship automatically after the customary period of one year and one day. In other words, Christus may be Van Eyck's successor in the Bruges school, but he was by no means his pupil. In fact, recent research reveals that Christus, long seen only in his great predecessor's light, was an independent painter whose work shows just as much influence from, among others, Dirk Bouts, Robert Campin and Rogier van der Weyden."
"It is unknown whether Christus visited Italy, and brought style and technical accomplishments of the greatest Northern European painters directly to Antonello da Messina and other Italian artists, or whether his paintings were purchased by Italians. A document testifying to the presence of a "Piero da Bruggia" (Petrus from Bruges?) in Milan may suggest that he visited that city at the same time as Antonello, and the two artists may even have met. This might account for the remarkable similarities between the Portrait of a Man attributed to Christus in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and many of Antonello's portraits, including the supposed self-portrait in the National Gallery in London. It would also be a convenient means of explaining how Italian painters learned about oil painting and how Northern painters learned about linear perspective. Antonello, along with Giovanni Bellini, was one of the first Italian painters to use oil paint like his Netherlandish contemporaries. And Christus' Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints Francis and Jerome in Frankfurt, seemingly dated 1457 (the third digit is illegible), is the first known Northern picture to demonstrate accurate linear perspective. The composition of a Lamentation, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, seems so closely inspired a marble relief by Antonello Gagini in the cathedral at Palermo that it has been suggested that the picture may have been painted for an Italian client."
"Portrait of a Young Girl, circa 1470. Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. A late work, the reserved Portrait of a Young Girl belongs among the masterworks of Flemish painting, marking a new development in Netherlandish portraiture. It no longer shows the sitter in front of a neutral background, but in a concrete space defined by the wall panels. Christus had already perfected this format in his two portraits of 1446. The unknown woman, whose exquisite clothing suggests that she might come from France, radiates an aura of discretion and of nobility, while appearing slightly unreal in the elegant stylization of her form."
From the Heilbrunn Timelineof Art History
"When Christus's oeuvre was rediscovered in the nineteenth century, it was rather pejoratively assessed as eclectic and largely derivative of Jan van Eyck. More recent scholarship, while acknowledging van Eyck's influence, has focused on Christus's inventive approach to accommodating the wishes of his patrons in Bruges, as the artist adjusted his style to suit their tastes. His meticulous technique is related to that of manuscript illumination; he was most assured working on a diminutive scale, but became increasingly adept at volumetric description in larger works."
"Five of Christus's thirty surviving paintings are housed at the Metropolitan Museum, providing a core group for the study of this artist. Modern scientific investigation has played a significant part in the reassessment of Christus's oeuvre. Technical examination—including X-radiography, infrared reflectography, and dendochronological analysis--reveals an increasingly sophisticated working technique for Christus's paintings that can be seen in the stylistic evolution of his underdrawings and his progressively more advanced employment of a perspective system. This has helped to resolve some issues of chronology and dating. Infrared reflectography has, for example, supported a date of about 1450 for the Museum's Lamentation (91.26.12) which, because of distinct stylistic differences from thematically similar works, such as the monumental Lamentation in Brussels (Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts), has been variously dated to the 1440s, 1450s, and 1460s. Additionally, comparing the underdrawings of authenticated works with those of paintings of uncertain authorship—such as the jewel-like fragment depicting the Annunciation (32.100.35)—often allows for a more conclusive attribution. Christus's authorship of a small group of extant drawings, likewise, has gained greater clarity through the possibility to compare them with the underdrawings in his paintings."
"An early work of about 1445, the Head of Christ (60.71.1) illustrates Christus's ability to assimilate features from an earlier model while altering others, thus creating a new kind of image. Based on a lost picture of the Holy Face by van Eyck (now known through copies in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, Groeningemuseum, Bruges, and formerly J. C. Swinburne collection, Newcastle-upon-Tyne), this small painting was created for private use and should be understood in the context of the rise of devotional piety—spurred by mystical movements such as the Devotio Moderna— that occurred in the Netherlands during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. This development led to the production of images whose specific purpose was to stimulate emotional and compassionate responses by evoking the sympathy of the viewer. The Christus Head of Christ is similar to its Eyckian forerunner in that the head, though planned according to a strict canon of proportions, is rendered as a volumetric portrait of a living being, while the fictive marble frame and floriated nimbus emphasize the subject's closeness to the picture plane and to the viewer just beyond it. Here, however, Christus fuses the Holy Face type (which derives from the supposed imprint of Christ's face on Veronica's Veil) with that of the Ecce Homo, depicting Christ in the midst of his suffering—robed in purple, a crown of thorns piercing his furrowed brow. The refinement of this image makes it more comparable with Christus's portraits than with the somewhat formulaic heads in his religious paintings."
"The Museum's collection includes one such portrait of 1446 (49.7.19), arguably Christus's finest and the earliest of his signed and dated works, depicting a lay brother of the Carthusian order. In certain ways, it represents an homage to the lifelike portraits of Jan van Eyck in its three-quarter bust-length view, and the attention lavished upon the depiction of textures and of the changing quality of light on surfaces. Here, Christus also implemented van Eyck's use of a trompe-l'oeil frame as a window between sitter and viewer, extending the illusion of the space from one side to the other. The ways in which the Portrait of a Carthusian differs from van Eyck's representations show the innovations Christus brought to Flemish portraiture. Instead of employing a uniformly dark, anonymous setting, Christus set off the white-robed figure with a warm red, ambiguous background. Here he also introduced a new concept in panel painting: the corner-space portrait. The sitter is anchored obliquely in a narrow cell-like space defined by two sources of light: an intense raking light issuing from the right and a softer glow illuminating the back left corner. Christus may have borrowed the notion of a diagonal point of view into an interior corner from pre-Eyckian manuscript illuminations such as those by the Limbourg brothers. Further eliminating the barrier between sitter and viewer, Christus added the ingenious device of the trompe-l'oeil fly, momentarily perched just above the artist's name on the windowsill. In later portraits, he discarded the ambiguous lighting and complex spatial description seen here, favoring a compositional balance of vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines to anchor the sitter in a dynamic geometrical construct, as in the Portrait of a Young Woman of about 1470 (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin)."
Portrait of a Young Girl
"Portrait of a Young Girl (or Portrait of a Young Lady), now in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, is one of the last paintings completed by Netherlandish artist Petrus Christus. Executed in oil on oak panel after 1460, likely c. 1470, the small portrait marks a stylistic advance in the both Christus's work and the development of Netherlandish portraiture. The sitter is no longer set against a neutral flat background, but placed in a three-dimensional, realistic setting. Moreover, the girl is not passive; she looks directly at the viewer in an almost petulant manner, although much is held back in her reserved gaze.Portrait of a Young Girl is a further development from the portraits of Robert Campin and Rogier van der Weyden, and has been highly influential. In part its appeal is in the sly expression of the sitter, which is accentuated by the fact of her eyes not quite being aligned.
It was purchased by the Medici family and recorded in their inventory as "a small panel painted with the head of a French lady, coloured in oil, the work of Pietro Cresci from Bruges". Their record does not address the matter of the girl's identity, indicating that their interest was more in the painting's aesthetic rather than historical value. It entered the Prussian royal collection with the purchase in 1821 of the Edward Solly collection."
"Christus frames the girl in an almost architectural manner which is both rigid and balanced. She is placed in a narrow horizontal triangular space. The wall behind her is largely flat, although the image is divided by the right angle joining the inverted triangle formed by her dress, and the horizontal linear description of her neck, face and headdress. The rendering of the background departs somewhat from the then conventions in portraiture; Christus sets her against a parallel wall which is defined both in terms of material (the lower half is a wooden dado), and by its shadow, its distance from the girl. Here the model is set in a recognisable interior, naturalistic enough to be within her own home."