17th Century & Flemish Paintings Gallery Level 2, NGV International
Portraits enjoyed great popularity in the Netherlands during the seventeenth century, reflecting the growing affluence and civic pride of Dutch society. Members of the extensive Dutch middle class were keen consumers of art, and their patronage sustained a large community of talented painters. This young woman’s black attire, while austere to modern eyes, was chosen for its fashionability and formality. She wears the bouwen, or close-fronted dress of an unmarried woman, a ‘millstone’ ruff, still in vogue in the 1730s, and a ‘diadem cap’ of silk or linen and pearl earrings. An expensive gold watch gleams against the piped black silk.