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The identity of the sitter is not known, although her many rings, her rich necklace and the costly gloves in her left hand show that she is of high rank. The artist's name is also unknown, although the initials 'FD', top right, may provide a clue. An x-ray study has shown that the artist made changes to the lady's dress and hat: in fact two different styles of cap lie beneath the present one. Perhaps a bereavement forced the lady to adopt mourning clothes during the course of the commission. The Latin inscription, possibly later in date, means 'A good character is a woman's fairest ornament'. The flowers in her right hand, held beneath her heart, may symbolise the transience of life.

August 2004