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The Lady with the Veil is one of the Nationalmuseum’s best loved paintings. The woman in the portrait is partially hidden by a black silk veil. Beneath the veil she is dressed for a special occasion in white lace and pink silk. During the 18th century, theatre was an important part of the life of the upper classes. Dressing up, disguising oneself and playing dramatic roles was a common pastime. The Lady with the Veil shows how one could dress up à la bolonaise – in the style of Bologna.

The woman is smiling in a tempting fashion yet she seems to want to remain secretive. She only shows part of herself. There are many anonymous portraits of women in collections around the world. Often they have been part of a pair of portraits of man and wife – so called pendant portraits. It is not unusual for such portraits to have become separated over the years. And since the influence of the women has been underestimated in writing the history of art, their names and identities have often been forgotten. For this reason, many of Roslin’s portraits now bear the title “Unknown Woman”. But the Lady with the veil is not one of these forgotten women. For she was Alexander Roslin’s wife: the French portrait artist Marie Suzanne Giroust.

Fans were not just a practical item for social gatherings. Fans could also be used for sending secret messages. There were numerous ways of holding, opening and closing fans. Each way meant something specific. The lady with the veil has folded her fan and is using it to stroke her cheek. This might mean: I love you! It was once the artist himself who received this message while he was painting his wife. Nowadays we are the recipients as we regard the painting and perhaps we let ourselves be seduced by the veiled woman…

Details

  • Title: The Lady with the Veil (the Artist's Wife)
  • Creator: Alexander Roslin
  • Date Created: 1768
  • Title in Swedish: Damen med slöjan. Konstnärens maka Suzanne Roslin
  • Signature: Roslin. S 1768.
  • Physical Dimensions: w540 x h650 cm (without frame)
  • Artist Information: Roslin was a Swedish portrait painter, working predominantly in Paris. He portrayed the elite of Europe at the time, receiving commissions in Paris, St. Petersburg, Bayreuth and Stockholm. Roslin was born in Skåne, in the south of Sweden in 1718. At the age of 15 he moved to Stockholm and was apprenticed to court painter Georg Schröder. The beginning of the 18th century was a period of material reconstruction in Sweden as the country tried to recover from the huge costs of King Charles XII’s wars therefore relatively few commissions were forthcoming from the court, the church and the nobility. Many of the newly trained Swedish artists, among them Alexander Roslin, went abroad to search for a living. Thanks to contacts and letters of recommendation he became a court painter both in Bayreuth and in Parma. On his travels he also met many patrons and painted portraits of numerous European aristocrats. In 1752, when Roslin settled in Paris, the same year he was elected a member of the French Académie. He then spent the rest of his life in France, except for two years in the service of Catherine II in St Petersburg. However, he maintained contacts with the Swedish royal household throughout his career. He also painted numerous portraits of Swedes who visited Paris. In 1759 he married the pastel painter Marie-Suzanne Giroust (1734-1772). The couple had six children. The Swedish one hundred kronor notes are adorned with Linnaeus’s face based on Roslin’s portrait from 1775.
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Nationalmuseum, Nationalmuseum
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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