Lady with a Fan, 1641 by Rembrandt

Rembrandt painted Lady with a Fan in 1641. Repeating his earlier conventions he has chosen the direct frontal view. Rembrandt has produced, a tour de force of straightforward portraiture in the same way that Johannes Vermeer was to produce a tour de force of straightforward landscape with his View of Delft, in the Mauritshius, The Hague.

Again the picture has a gentle quality, the sitter is shown in all her finery, shows how the artist has gained more control over his subject-matter over decades of experience. The early directness remains, but this is tempered with an ever-increasing compassion. The sitter's dark eyes are looking straight in front of her, but they are not focussed on the spectator. In this largely monochromatic painting a sense of opulence is achieved by the simplest possible means, the use of colour being limited to the natural ones of the flesh tones and hair. Not until Vermeer, whose first faltering steps were taken ten years later than this picture, was there to be such a direct approach to the visual world where the eye is focussed on the object for its own sake.