A grotesque portrait of an old woman (the “Dissolute Duchess”), Quentin Masseis – description

A grotesque portrait of an old woman (the “Dissolute Duchess”), Quentin Masseis – description
A grotesque portrait of an old woman (the “Dissolute Duchess”), Quentin Masseis - description - 1

  • Posted by Quentin Masseis
  • Museum: National Gallery (London)
  • Year: Around 1513

Description of the picture :

Grotesque portrait of an old woman (The Ugly Duchess) – Quentin Masseyas. Wood, butter. 64.2 x 45.5 cm

   Quentin Masseys is one of the largest representatives of the Antwerp school of painting. The history of the Dutch Renaissance usually begins with it.

   The painting “A Grotesque Portrait of an Old Woman” has always attracted attention, has been interpreted differently, for a long time as a satire for old age. In this vein, the fact that Leonardo da Vinci, who had an interest in all kinds of anomalies, made two drawings from her was analyzed. A much later example is appropriate in this series – the work of B. Strozzi “Old Coquette” (about 1637), stored in GMII named after. AND. WITH. Pushkin in Moscow. In favor of such an interpretation, a flower in the hand of “Duchess”, a traditional symbol of brandy in European painting, speaks.

   But another explanation for the appearance of this work is also possible. As the doctors established, it depicts a woman suffering from Paget’s disease – a rare ailment characterized by anomaly of bone structure. If so, then the work is not a caricature, but an early evidence of the disease, which was studied and described by Sir James Peget only in 1877. In this case, the picture is both a “monument” (the creation of art) and a “document” (historical evidence in a particular field). And if the first is the goal of the artist, then the second, as a rule, is an involuntary consequence of creativity. The perception and evaluation of the masterpiece largely depends on the point of view of the viewer.