This female nude – delicately executed in three hues of chalk on grey paper – suggests a complete work of art in its beauty and balance. However, it was created as a preliminary figure study for a painted composition. The reflected light upon the body has been wonderfully observed. The shadow cast by the legs suggests that the model was sitting on a bench or perhaps on the edge of a bed. The model’s left arm may have been supporting her with the aid of a wall or staff, which explains why this hand was not drawn. The fact that the hatching breaks off before the edges shows that the sheet has not been cropped.
On the basis of known works, Adriaen van de Velde seems to have created more figure studies than any other Dutch landscape painter. This woman posed for him more than once. Male family members and studio colleagues often posed for figure studies. However, female models in Holland were prostitutes or women considered to be prostitutes because of their work as models.
Van de Velde presumably had a large store of figure studies, which he could then utilize when creating his landscape and history paintings. To date, no precise use of the Berlin nude, created in the 1660s, has been documented.