Le Chapeau de Paille
Painted probably 1622 - 1625. The full title of the painting is Portrait of Susanna Lunden (?) (Le
Chapeau de Paille). Wood (oak), 79 x 54 cm. Conserved at The National Gallery, London,
UK. It was purchased in 1871 and represents one of the most admired
masterworks of the renown Gallery.
The title Le Chapeau de Paille, meaning The Straw Hat, was first used in the 18th century. In fact the hat is not straw, paille may be an error for poil, which is felt. The hat, with its curling feathers, is the most prominent feature of the painting, shading the face of the sitter.
She is probably Susanna Lunden, third daughter of
Daniel Fourment, an Antwerp tapestry and silk merchant. Susanna married
Arnold Lunden, her second husband, in 1622. The portrait probably dates from
The direct glance from under the shadow of the hat, the attention directed to the body, and the ring on the finger, all suggest that the painting is a marriage portrait. By setting the picture outdoors, Rubens gives himself the opportunity for a virtuoso depiction of the effects of light, especially the reflected light in the shadows of Susanna's face.
Rubens's portraits were very popular in the 18th century. Close variants were painted by many painters, including the "Self Portrait in a Straw Hat", by Elisabeth Vigée Lebrun, after 1782, National Gallery, London. It is a free imitation of Rubens' "Chapeau de Paille", which the artist has seen in Antwerp. The painting appears to be an "autograph" replica of a picture, the original of which was painted in 1782. The painter wears a real straw hat. (After Microsoft Art Gallery, 1993)
Background: The Four Continents, Fine Arts Museum in Vienna, Austria
Biographical data about Flemish Painters
Copyright © 1997 - 2003 by Victor Manta, Switzerland.
All rights reserved in all countries.