Portrait of a Woman with a Prayer Book | 1560/70 | Bartholomäus Bruyn the Younger
When I first saw this painting on display at the Art Institute of Chicago, I knew I had to include it in my Books in Art feature...I wanted (needed) the opportunity to talk about her outrageous clothing. But first, a little bit about the painting.
Portrait of a Woman with a Prayer Book was painted by Bartholomäus Bruyn the Younger in the mid- to late 16th century. As his name might suggest, his father was also a notable artist. Bruyn the younger trained in his father's workshop and inherited the shop along with the clientele in 1555. In addition to being an artist, he was also quite active in politics. He was elected to the City Council three times. The workshop remained open until 1590 when his eyesight began failing and he could no longer see to paint. He is best known for his portraits of citizens in Cologne, where he lived and practiced politics.
Interestingly, this is not the only painting he did of a woman with a prayer book. I found the set of paintings above on Christies website, featuring Portrait of a gentleman, half-length, with a glove and a book; and A portrait of a lady, three-quarter length, holding a prayer book. The pair sold for $74,500.
The painting was also very similar to this one owned by the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO (one of the first museums I visited while growing up and contributing to my love for art.) This is another three-quarter length and featured the same elaborate headpiece of the previous two paintings. The black robe lined in white and pulled back to reveal red sleeves and the elaborate white headdress is wedding apparel. This is the same garment worn in the Christies painting and very similar to the garment worn in the original painting with the only difference being that the woman in the original painting has black sleeves instead of red.
Want to learn more about 16th Century fashion or paintings? Consider reading one of these books: