Gerard Dou: Portrait of an old Woman Reading (1631-1632)

(Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

This is a great portrait by Gerard (or Gerrit) Dou. Dou was a pupil of Rembrandt and this portrait is inspired by a painting by Rembrandt of a reading woman. although the subject is the same the style of Dou is much sharper. the book which the woman is reading is presented in such high detail that we can read it: it is a Lectionary, a book that contains a collection of scripture readings appointed for Christian worship on a given day or occasion. She is reading the beginning of chapter 19 of the Gospel of Luke. The passage states that those who wish to do good must give away half of all they own to the poor. The expensive clothing of the woman contrasts with the message, she is still attached to worldly possessions. This painting is from 1631-1632.

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