Where? Room 27 of the National Gallery in London
When? c. 1513
Medium and size: Oil on panel, 62.4 × 45.5 cm.
What do you see? It shows a portrait of a grotesque woman in luxurious clothes. Her face is somewhat malformed due to her suffering from Paget’s Disease. Massys did not try to idealize her, which is also evident by the wart on her cheek. The woman, however, is dressed in luxurious clothes, including a beautiful brooch on top of her headgear and several rings on her hands. Her outfit would have been fashionable some decades earlier, but by the time this was painted, it would be out of fashion.
The painting is a pendant to the portrait of An Old Man, which Massys painted in the same year. The woman is depicted as a temptress, which Massys expressed via various clues. First, she holds a rosebud in her right hand, a flower with sexual connotations. Second, she shows a fair amount of cleavage, which would be considered quite scandalous. Third, her headgear decorated with roses, also known as a escoffion, is in the form of a heart shape, although it may simultaneously be interpreted as a pair of horns.