Attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts IIPortrait of an Unknown Lady c.1595

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Artwork details

Attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts II (1561 or 2‑1636)
Portrait of an Unknown Lady
Date c.1595
MediumOil paint on wood
Dimensionssupport: 927 x 760 x 10 mm frame: 1052 x 882 x 85 mm
Acquisition Accepted by HM Government in lieu of tax and allocated to the Tate Gallery 2001
Not on display


It is rare for sitters in sixteenth-century portraits to be depicted – as this lady is - smiling. On the contrary, they generally maintain a neutral expression representing unyielding dignity. A small number of Marcus Gheeraerts’s subjects, however, are shown with similarly cheerful expressions.

The most obvious feature of this portrait is that the lady is depicted in a late stage of pregnancy. It is unusual in Western art for women to be portrayed as unambiguously pregnant, even though records show that many spent much of their adult lives in that state. However, in England, from roughly the 1560s through to about 1630, this form of visual presentation seems to have been surprisingly common. These images have recently been termed (by the present author) ‘pregnancy portraits’… (read more)