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In seventeenth-century Dutch painting the mirror, which generally symbolised vanity or human frailty, could also connote lasciviousness or voluptuousness. The woman holds a double sided ivory comb in her right hand. In the emblematic literature of the day the comb served as a reminder of the dual nature of earthly goods, which could be employed for either virtue or vice. The picture can thus be read as an allegory of the dangers of concentrating too much on the physical and the need to pay attention to the inner spirit as well as to outward appearances.
oil on oak panel
H 19.2 x W 16.6 cm
acquired by Francis Charles Seymour-Conway, 3rd Marquess of Hertford, at an unknown date; bequeathed to the nation by Lady Wallace, 1897