Portrait of a Young Lady 1614; by Laurenz Strauch.
Portrait of a Young Lady 1614; by Laurenz Strauch.
Portrait of a Young Lady 1614; by Laurenz Strauch.
Portrait of a Young Lady 1614; by Laurenz Strauch.
Portrait of a Young Lady 1614; by Laurenz Strauch.
Portrait of a Young Lady 1614; by Laurenz Strauch.

Portrait of a Young Lady 1614; by Laurenz Strauch.

1614 Germany

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Oil on canvas in a reproduction frame of period type.
Inscribed 'SUAE 22, 1614' (Aged 22).

In this lovely and poignant portrait, the young woman is heavily pregnant and looks out with a calm expression.
Childbirth was a dangerous time for both the woman and the child, deaths were frequent and it is known that some portraits were commissioned in case the sitter died.
As Lady Massingberd wrote to her daughter "Ye safe dylevery in child bearth is God's one work. Pray spare as much time as you can for meddetation and prayer to acquaint yrself with God."
Such may have been the thoughts of this sitter.

These pregnancy portraits are very rare, for instance, "there are no examples of pregnant women in Dutch portraiture" (Marieke de Winkel 'The Interpretation of Dress in Vermeer's Paintings').
Portraits in other European countries did, as this one does, occasionally show the sitter as obviously and indisputably with child, but they are uncommon. In England, in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, they can be more frequently seen, but still only a handful.

In this portrait the young woman's right hand rests protectively over her bump. This is a well observed gesture and testifies to the artist's interest in a naturalism which was rare at this date.
Symbolism abounds in this lovely painting: the sitter holds rosemary to her body; this was a symbol of fidelity and fertility, but also of remembrance.
To the left of the the young woman we see a fig, the first tree mentioned in the Bible, and therefore redolent of faith and abundance, and fertility linked to femininity.
Its many seeds also symbolise unity and knowledge. Only found in Mediterranean countries, in Northern Europe it was an expensive delicacy, and was seen as a sign of prosperity and wealth.
There is also a lemon, again an expensive Southern food item, but its meaning was that it was like life...attractive to look at but bitter to the taste...the deceptive allure of earthly beauty.
The bowl seems to contain plums which are a symbol of spring, immortality and fidelity.
The evidence of her jewelled belt and rings demonstrate the wealth of this young lady, but the overriding feeling of the portrait is one of hope for the future.

IMAGE 6 shows a portrait of a man by Strauch, signed and dated 1613. The sitter also holds a sprig of rosemary and he faces to our right, thus making a pair with our portrait. I believe that this portrait could well be the husband.

LAURENZ STRAUCH (1554-1630) worked in Nürnberg as an etcher and as a painter. He was educated by his father Hans Strauch and influenced by the Flemish portrait painter Nicolas Neufchatel.
He was a prominent portrait painter for the local patricians. Strauch's portraits, the earliest from 1581, were almost exclusively made for them, for example Clara Praun (1588; Nuremberg, Ger. Nmus.), and craftsmen, such as Christoph Jamnitzer (1597; Nuremberg, Ger. Nmus.). While his likenesses are rather stiff and lack the warmth of Neufchatel's better paintings, Strauch excelled at reproducing the jewellery and dress of his sitters. His portrait of Johann Neudorfer and his son is in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich. A self portrait from 1614 can be found at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nürnberg. His etchings provide us with a picturesque view of the Nürnberg of his time.

Our thanks to the art historian Adam Busiakiewicz who identified the artist.

Sussex Private Collection for many years.

External Height 44.00 inch (111.76 cm)
External Width 34.50 inch (87.63 cm)
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Roy Precious - Antiques & Fine Art

Roy Precious - Antiques & Fine Art
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