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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.
The inscription at the top of the painting reads: GEBORNE HOFERIN. This means that the woman is from the Hofer family, but as this was a common surname in southern Germany at the time it doesn't help to identify her.
Oil on silver fir
H 53.7 x W 40.8 cm
Presented by Queen Victoria at the Prince Consort's wish, 1863