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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.
Portrait of a Woman of the Hofer Family
Oil on silver fir
H 53.7 x W 40.8 cm
Presented by Queen Victoria at the Prince Consort's wish, 1863