Continental European before 1800, Dress and Textiles, Portraits: British 16th and 17th C 29 Can anyone identify this girl and tell us more about the painting's history?

Portrait of an Unknown Girl
Topic: Subject or sitter

Can anyone provide information on the identity of the sitter? The painting is of fine quality, and it has an unusual history – found as the door of a cupboard in a set of rooms on A Staircase, Great Court, around 1900.

Edward Stone, Entry reviewed by Art UK

29 comments

Elisabeth Lee,

It seems more in the style of William Wissing except for the face. Would date it around 1680 -1700. Maybe by a pupil of Wissing.

Laura Schwendinger,

It seems to me, that the softness in brush strokes feels more like some Van Dyck. I am looking forward to hearing what the art experts think!

Howard Jones,

It looks as though it desperately needs cleaning., Is Bendor available?

The background looks interesting but is very discoloured.

Fred G. Meijer,

The attribution to Herman Verelst seems absolutely convincing, so painted in England between 1683 and 1702, which appears to be confirmed by style and dress.

Jacinto Regalado,

Could this be the painter's daughter, Maria Verelst (1680-1744), who also became a painter?

Jacinto Regalado,

Maria Verelst, who was obviously taught to paint by her father, was apparently well educated and spoke multiple languages, suggesting an above-average intellect. The girl in this picture need not be her, but she does look like a thoughtful child, and the portrayal of the face looks true to life and affectionate as opposed to a flattering or fashionably prettified image. She could be the painter's daughter.

Louis Musgrove,

Is it a younger version of the nice young lady who adorns the front page of Art Uk ?????

Whaley Turco,

Something odd going on with Her left arm. It does look like Herman's style and technique. But, Something feels off. Has anyone dated the Paint?

Jacinto Regalado,

Howard, I'm afraid you've posted the wrong link.

I'd be very cautious about the comparisons in the two previous posts. They seem to me no more than period resemblances, rather than the same sitter but older.

Alison Golding,

Vereslt as a portrait painter does seem to have captured a variety of physionomy in his subjects rather than making them all look the same. In this case there do appear to be similarities with the portrait in the Washington National Gallery of Art in the shape of the nose, philtrum, chin, ear, hair colour and hair line. Ears in particular are now recognised as unique for forensic purposes: is there enough of the adult ear showing to make a comparison with the younger?

Again I'd be cautious. Artists had a habit of reducing a secondary portrait feature like the ear to a formula, rather than catching the individuality of a particular ear. The similarities with the Washington portrait are resemblances common to many portraits of the period. Any similarities would need to be backed up by other evidence such as provenance, inscriptions, documents or engravings.

Howard Jones,

If we look at the face and try studying it carefully the left corner of the girls mouth appears twisted. I can not see clearly enough to tell if the painting is damaged or the artist got careless or if he was trying to indicate her face or mouth was asymmetric.

The lower part of the ear and her neck are discoloured as though they need cleaning but it dose not help for checking the shape of the ear. Although the overall appearance is similar to the Washington portrait I do not think it is a good enough match to suggest they are the same individual.

A close up photo of the mouth of the girl might be helpful.

Howard Jones,

Closer views of the Trinity and Washington Verelst paintings can be seen at the M F P painting reproduction site and the Wikipedia sites hopefully linked below.

https://en.most-famous-paintings.com/MostFamousPaintings.nsf/A?Open&A=AQSVE7

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c8/Maria_Verelst,_Portrait_of_a_Lady,_c._1715-1730,_perhaps_close_to_1725,_NGA_34143.jpg

The USA portrait of a woman by Maria Verelst shows an asymmetric face. The left side of her nose and the nostril extend farther down. With both paintings there is a noticeable dark area in the outer corner of the left eye and a dark shadow just beneath this outer corner. The young lady is shown with a short shadow extending upwards from the left side of her upper lip. There is a similar shadow shown for the older woman. Overall the faces do look similar.

On reflection I agree with Alison Golding that the two paintings show the same sitter. If the suggestion above by Jacinto Regalado that the Trinity painting shows Herman Verelst's daughter this would mean that the painting in Washington must be a self portrait by Maria Verelst. The unusual sparse background for the portrait might support this proposal. Perhaps an Art UK contributor better acquainted with self portraits might have a view about this.

The Trinity College painting has clearly not always been well treated. Previously was employed as a cupboard door. Perhaps the College could make up for this by showing the painting some TLC with a little cleaning and restoration.

I doubt if the Washington Verelst is a self-portrait; it has none of the usual accessories. It's very unlikely to be the same person as that shown in the Trinity portrait (which to my eyes from the online image is in good condition). Any similarities would need to be backed up by other evidence such as provenance, inscriptions, documents or engravings.

Howard Jones,

Do we have any estimates for the age of this girl. We would all agree she is young but how young?

Early in this discussion David Saywell, states that the identity of the artist as Herman Verelstis certain and not being questioned, so do we have any additional information about the provenance and history of the picture before it was found being used as a cupboard door.

Perhaps the College could make amends for this earlier mistreatment by getting the painting cleaned and restored. It is clearly attractive in its present condition but the background appears truly murky and the flowers in her hair are fading away.

Howard

Just to say my comment back on 26/03 was probably made too hastily; I was just trying to steer the discussion towards the sitter for the Collection. But as Jacob reminded me, we need to know the evidence for the attribution. I am of course neither in a position nor qualified to make judgements and say what is certain and not certain. So please don't attach any weight to my earlier comment.

Thanks, David

Louis Musgrove,

As to the gloomy background-I see shrubs on both sides,The young girl --my guess about ten years old---seems to sit on a stone pediment.Then there is a little dog and don't forget the bowl of fruit-grapes and peaches.

On the attribution, we can trust the expert opinion of
Fred G. Meijer (26 March).

Responding to Howard's post (6 April), I suspect that the background was intended to be dark to allow the figure to stand out. Not unusual at the period, e.g. Wissing's portraits. To my eyes from the online image the picture is in good condition for its age.

Jacinto Regalado,

It is certainly possible that I am assuming too much, but I think it is probably telling that Herman Verelst enabled and encouraged his daughter's career as a painter rather than expect her to follow a conventional path (his son Cornelis also became a painter, but that was much more predictable). This implies he saw Maria as a person with the potential to make a living in what was then an essentially male endeavour, rather than as a a female child to be married off so she could be a wife and mother. My point is he must have appreciated and respected her character and talent enough to support it, and I should like to think that comes through in this portrait if it is of her.

Howard Jones,

I understand Jacinto's argument and hope he is correct but there may be additional evidence suggesting this young lady is from a wealthier family.

Louis Musgrove replying above to my 'gloomy background' comment writes '...I see shrubs on both sides'. Checking the picture last night last night I was surprised to find a building or even mansion amongst the trees located just above the girls right arm.

I am also concerned about the bowl of fruit in the Trinity picture. I think we can all guess the significance of the lady tempting us with the fig in Verelst's painting on the home page for the Art Detective site but what is the significance of this much younger girl reaching for a peach from her own bowl of fruit.

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