Quentin Matsys: An Old Woman ('The Ugly Duchess'), (1513)

(National Gallery, London, UK)

This is probably the most well known painting from the Flemish painter Quentin Matsys (1466–1530). The woman on the painting is probably a satire, although it has been suggested that this woman suffered from Paget’s disease (a chronic disorder that can result in enlarged and misshapen bones). She wears a horned headdress (out of fashion at the time of the painting) and holds a red flower in her right hand, indicating that she is trying to attract a suitor. The painting originally formed part of a diptych with 'Portrait of an Old Man' forming the second half. Leonardo da Vinci made a copy of this painting and it is thought that the illustrations of John Tenniel of 'The Duchess' from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is also based upon this work. Painting from around 1513.

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