Portrait of a Woman of the Hofer Family

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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The woman’s large white headdress, its calligraphic shape made up of stiff, angular folds, is striking against the dark background. Shading around the folds reinforces the sense of their depth, and the artist seems to want us to think that a fly, deceived by his illusion, has attempted to land on the headdress. The fly is, of course, also part of the deception and perhaps intended to reinforce the artist’s mastery. With slim fingers the sitter gestures towards a sprig of forget-me-nots. The flowers were sometimes a symbol of marriage, so she may have been portrayed to commemorate an engagement, but they also refer to remembrance. Perhaps they are an invitation to remember the sitter through this portrait when absent, or even after her death.

The National Gallery, London



Portrait of a Woman of the Hofer Family


about 1470


Oil on silver fir


H 53.7 x W 40.8 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Presented by Queen Victoria at the Prince Consort's wish, 1863

Work type



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The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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