Work of Art: Allegorical Portrait of an Artist in Her Studio
Michiel van Musscher
Dutch
1645-1705
Allegorical Portrait of an Artist in Her Studio
circa 1675-85
Oil on canvas
45 x 35 7/8 in. (114.3 x 91.1 cm)
Gift of Armand and Victor Hammer

Gesturing with a paintbrush towards her creation, an artist sits in her lavish studio awaiting the praise of viewers. Her skill in transforming nature into art, confirmed by the floral still life sitting on the easel, is already celebrated. Fame trumpets her presence and a putto places a laurel wreath on her head. The statue of Minerva, the mythological patroness of the arts, and attributes of the liberal arts such as the palette and brushes, sculptural casts, and open music book on the table call attention to the painter’s elevated status.

While the costume and hairstyle of the sitter suggest a date of about 1680–1685, her identity and that of the artist responsible for the picture are open to debate. Once thought to represent the Dutch still-life painter Rachael Ruysch (1664–1750), the woman pictured here does not correspond to known likenesses of Ruysch. A somewhat more plausible identification is that of Maria van Oosterwijck (1630–1693), at the time the most highly regarded female still-life painter in Holland. Considering the relatively young age of the woman, however, this suggestion also seems unlikely. Stylistically, the painting bears many likenesses to works by Michiel van Musscher, an artist who painted similar allegorical subjects during his career.

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