Portrait of a Young Woman with Loose Hair by Albrecht Dürer

Portrait of a Young Woman with Loose Hair by Albrecht Dürer (1497)

As promised yesterday, today the featured painting in My Daily Art Display today, is Albrecht Dürer’s work entitled Portrait of a Young Fürleger with Long Hair which was also completed in 1497 and was along with yesterday’s portrait, part of the diptych.  The two paintings remained together as such until 1830 at which time they were sold privately to different art collectors.  As was explained in yesterday’s blog the two portraits purport to be of the daughters of the wealthy Fürleger family of Nuremburg although this fact has since been disputed.

As with the case of yesterday’s portrait this painting bears a similar coat of arms but in this instance, it is an inverted red lily which was similar to the one used by the Fürleger family, albeit theirs was a yellow lily on a blue background.  Again, as was the case in yesterday’s portrait it is believed that this coat of arms was added later.

There is a marked contrast between the two portraits.  Yesterday’s portrait of the young woman with her hair in braids had part of the background taken up by a window, out of which one could see a countryside landscape.  Today there is no such view of the world outside and has a rather sombre, dark, neutral and enclosed background.  Art historians believe that this aspect of the two paintings leads us to believe that the woman with the braided hair is a woman who openly welcomes the world and who is either open to offers of betrothal or is indeed already betrothed.  On the other hand, today’s young woman has shut herself off from the world.  She has renounced the world and its temptations and will pledge her life to Christ’s work in a convent.  This is also borne out by her devout pose.  Her head is lowered with her hands clasped together in prayer. She seems somewhat shy and retiring and avoids our gaze as she looks downwards.

Our young woman today wears a simple coral bracelet around her left wrist.  Her clothes are drabber.  The neckline of her chemise is high covering all of the upper part of her chest.  This is in complete contrast to the more plunging neckline of the chemise worn by “the young Fürleger with her hair up”.   It is interesting to look at the shape of the two girl’s necks.  They seem somewhat swollen which has led experts to believe that both may have suffered with thyroid problems. 

In today’s portrait the young woman’s hair cascades down over her shoulders.  It is a simple style.  One could say that it is “as God intended it to be”.  A simple headband holds it place allowing us to have an interrupted view of her delightful face.  The light comes from her right hand side casting a shadow on the left side of her face.  Her lips are closed but there is a hint of a smile.  This is indeed a soft and beautiful face and the young woman exudes a demure expression in complete contrast to the expression on the face of yesterday’s young woman which was harder and more worldly-wise.

I have to admit when I looked at the two portraits I initially “fell in love” with the girl with her hair up but on close scrutiny I believe today’s young woman is the more beautiful of the two and the one I would like to meet and get to know.  Maybe it is her unavailability that intrigues me and makes me want to know more about her.  Maybe it is her gentle expression that has seduced me.

Once again “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, so look at the two images and decide for yourself  “who is the fairest of them all