Why does this lady have a fly on her head? | National Gallery

2022 ж. 13 Сәу.
1 678 298 Рет қаралды

Francesca Whitlum-Cooper, The Myojin-Nadar Associate Curator of Paintings 1600-1800, investigates this portrait's unusual addition.
🎨 Find out more about 'Portrait of a Woman of the Hofer Family'
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  • I based a college thesis on this painting 40 years ago and am enlightened to see others share some of the same conclusions. Before the Age of the Internet, it was not the prevailing theory. You too can also solve the riddle. The answer is a few lines below.

    Joe GriffinJoe Griffin
  • I believe the artist to be Albrecht Durer. It bears a strong resemblance to his portrait of Barbara Durer. which was his mother. Her maiden name was Holfer. As mentioned prior in this thread, the fly and Forget-Me--Nots would point to a rememberance painting of his mother.

    B J FitzpatrickB J Fitzpatrick
  • I love the amount of mirth our guide to this portrait has in describing this clever joke on the viewer. I originally thought it was a memeto-mori kind of thing, either a commentary from the artist, or the sitter/commissioner to show themselves as humble. BUT! The thing that sticks out to me is that the fly isn't drawn to the scale of the sitter- it's drawn to the scale of us, the viewer, and the painting as an object! The shadows it casts are also like on the flat surface of the painting, and not her headdress. This definitely is some great trompe l'oeil, hadn't even thought of how it could be bragging rights of the artist, or of the family having it in their home, that they could have a painting done with such skill and realism.

    seir323seir323
  • A fly in a picture is usually either a joke (a type of trompe l'oeil to trick the viewer, just as mentioned in the video), or an indication that the sitter has already passed away and it is a remebrance piece. Every details matters in old master art, so, in connection with the forget-me-nots in her hand here, it may well be a post-humous portrait.

    Marina ViatkinaMarina Viatkina
  • What a fascinating subject and what an engaging speaker! In just a few minutes she managed to share such an appreciation for all the tiny details in the painting, and the context. Glad I stumbled upon this.

    Liz VillegasLiz Villegas
  • It is a memento mori. The flowers are Forget-me-not which held a strong symbolism in Northern Europe and indeed elsewhere as a flower of both love and mourning. Flies swarm around dead things, a connection which nobody in the period would fail to make. Northern European painting, particularly Netherlandish and by extension German painting is heavy on symbolism. The fly lands on the beautiful chaperon or caul to remind the viewer that here, too, death will come to mar the beauty and undermine the pride in earthly things. Or something.

    Checo BeeperCheco Beeper
  • I get the impression this young woman has been recently widowed. The black dress, the white hat (like a nun), the bittersweet expression, the forget-me-nots and the fly all convey a sense of transience of existence.

    James ClappJames Clapp
  • What I love about a painting like this is that it allows us to endlessly speculate. The fly could be a joke, but it could serve double duty as yet another clue in the work about the woman. As pristine as the rest of the portrait is, the fly could be a nod to her sense of humor. A bit of self deprecation and a bit of humility added in. The placement of the fly upon her immaculate headdress almost places it as the centerpiece of the work. An eye-drawing mar upon perfection. If this is a piece to commemorate a love or marriage, could be a wink saying: "Look what you've gotten yourself into". Even her expression appears to be a barely contained smirk as she pretends not to notice the fly.

    Joe SyxpackJoe Syxpack
  • So grateful to the National Gallery for these on line art " lessons".Thank you so much!

    Teresa FerreiraTeresa Ferreira
  • Really good presentation , I love how open her interpretation is . Not giving a strong opinion in the way she could have wanted us to think as many art historian tend to do . I hope she will talk about more paintings in the future on your YT channel . Thank you .

    Real SalicaReal Salica
  • Thank you! Fascinating! Lots of comments below about the symbolism of the fly. I love Francesca's take on it, and I also think the fly to likely be a comment on morality. But a point that I don't think has been made yet is that, aesthetically, the painting seems to need something in that spot. Blot the fly out with your thumb, or something, and the composition just doesn't work so well. It's unbalanced. And there's a sea of white that might have just looked like a sea of white--instead of white cloth--without something there to fix the eye a focal point. I'd be interested to see if anyone agrees with me.

    Steven DalySteven Daly
  • Let me just say that this artist is incredible. Your close-ups of the canvas reveal amazing detail. Even the fly looks real!!

    Fart SimpsonFart Simpson
  • It’s kinda cool how the fly kinda completes the painting in a sense. Without it it would just be a really good painting of a lady, but still just a painting. But with the fly it becomes so unique. Same with Mona Lisa, if her expression was clear it would still be a great painting but a single detail causes so much discussion

    EingyiEingyi
  • Ms. Whitlum-Cooper is the real star here -- her passion and excitement and humor shine and make this a delightful vignette into 15th C. life and art.

    David FederDavid Feder
  • What a wonderful presenter! Thank you so much - I would never have guessed that all of that information could be derived from what appears to be a simple portrait. So enlightening and made me want to learn more.

    SusanSusan
  • I was once in the national gallery and walked into a room and saw an elderly gentleman looking into the room through a small window. My mistake, it was a portrait of a Dutch gentleman by Rembrandt. I was fooled momentarily by the excellent wet reflection that the artist had painted in the gentleman's eyes.

    Neil MacKenzieNeil MacKenzie
  • Wonderful discussion! Thank you, Ms. Whitlum-Cooper. I was unfamiliar with this painting. As you went into the details, I thought, good gosh, this thing's on a level with Van Eyck! It really is a masterpiece. When you pointed out her smile, again, I thought, oh, I think I prefer her smile to Mona Lisa's (blasphemy, I know).

    Rotter RedRotter Red
  • That was one of the best descriptions of a painting I've ever heard. Interesting and compelling. Thank you for this video! And after reading all the comments, I wish we could know the artist's true intention. But I suppose good art makes you think without telling you what to think

    Mark BusaMark Busa
  • Such a wonderful video! I love the idea that she had an offbeat sense of humor and wanted to trick the people who would see her painting. Thank you for sharing her with us

    IntrepidFraidyCatIntrepidFraidyCat
  • What a lovely presentation!! Gosh, I could listen to this knowledgeable speaker for hours. Such a sweet relief from the truly appalling narrative voices on most KZworld videos. Thank you!

    createone100createone100
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