Pieter Pietersz. the Elder

1540 - 1603

A Portrait of a Lady in black with a Wing Cap with starched Tails and a pleated Collar


Oil on Panel




56(h) x 45(w) cms


inscribed and dated: 'Ano 16..'


This portrait is a touching and intimate depiction of an elderly Dutch woman. Her clothes, rich black fabric with a pleated collar and white wing cap with its long starched tails indicates her status as a person of some importance and wealth, perhaps the matriarch of a merchant family. Her right hand raised to her chest is holding a sample of white cloth. This could indicate family ties to the textile trade.

The sitter's distinctive headwear with its tails was an accoutrement of wealthy women in the Low Countries worn from at least the first half of the 16th century. In particular they appear to be associated with the city of Utrecht. The tails shorted in length over time and decline in popularity towards the last decades of the century when they tended to appear in portraits of older women, such as our own sitter.

A similar portrait by Pietersz of a matronly woman in the Mauritshaus (inventory no. 1109) dated 1597 is the pendant to a portrait of a man who is presumably the woman's husband. This suggests that there may exist a lost pendant for the present picture.


Private Collection, France