Portrait of a Girl (c.1545-1550)

Seisenegger, Jakob (1505-1567)

Portrait of a Girl
Oil on wood, 28.9 × 21.6 cm
National GalleryLondon

Jakob Seisenegger was well known as a portraitist, and he travelled across Europe to paint members of the powerful Hapsburg family, including the Holy Roman Emperors, in their various territories. We don’t know the identity of this girl, but she surely belonged to an important dynasty.

Her large, rounded cheeks suggest that she is still quite young, but nonetheless she’s dressed in a stiff formal outfit: a ruffled collar peeks out from beneath a high-necked net bodice woven in alternating stripes with gold thread and a dark purplish yarn. Her cap is embellished with flowers made of pearls and a red bead, perhaps coral. Her red hair, arranged in a series of tiny neat plaits, pokes out at her temples. The rest of her hair is contained in a net of knitted gold thread, also decorated with pearls. The detailed costume suggests a dating of about 154550.

X-ray photography reveals a device (a personal emblem) imitating that of the painter Lucas Cranach the Younger, to whom the picture was once attributed. The panel was probably cut from a larger portrait: Seisenegger rarely worked on such a small scale. (NG)