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Woman at her Dressing Table

Ferdinand Bol1643/1647

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The handsome woman admiring herself in the mirror may represent a personification of the vice of vanity. The theme of vanitas, Latin for "emptiness," was popular in 17th-century Dutch art, intended to symbolize the transitory nature of earthly life and the inevitability of death.

Ferdinand Bol was one of Rembrandt van Rijn's most gifted and successful pupils. Bol enjoyed considerable success as an independent artist, but his works reflect the strong debt in both style and subject to the work of his master. Like Rembrandt, Bol was interested in the effects of light, as can be seen here in the idealized face of the young woman bathed in a warm light against a dark background. The glistening details of her costume and jewelry glow with a vivid naturalness, the strong contrasts worked up very much in a Rembrandtesque manner of chiaroscuro, or arrangement of light and dark. Bol also captures something of the mood and tender character of Rembrandt's art of this period with the manner in which the young woman gazes at herself in the mirror. Her identity has not been confirmed, but she may be Rembrandt's wife, Saskia van Uylenburgh, who was repeatedly painted in fancy costume by Rembrandt and his pupils.

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  • Title: Woman at her Dressing Table
  • Creator: Ferdinand Bol
  • Date Created: 1643/1647
  • Physical Dimensions: w91.8 x h128.9 cm (without frame)
  • Type: Painting
  • External Link: MFAH
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Credit Line: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase funded by Mrs. Harry C. Hanszen

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