Jan Cornelisz. Verspronck, "Portrait of a Lady" (1641), Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena. One of my favorite portraits ever, not just at the Norton Simon. I'm rather drawn to the Dutch, their comfortable, maybe even stolid outlook on life, and this portrait speaks to me on many levels. It's not only technically brilliant, but captures character wonderfully. I like how her dress manages to be plain and extravagant at the same time, and the way that her bum roll tips up at the back because she's resting her hands on it in the front, and most of all her smile.
Peder Severin Krøyer, "Marie Krøyer" (1889), Skagens Museum.
John Singer Sargent, "Mrs. John Jay Chapman" (1893), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC. Another wonderful portrait from a master. The Smithsonian has a brief background of the painting here (slight quibble, though -- these are not leg-of-mutton sleeves).
Unknown artist, "A Moravian Single Sister" (ca. 1810-1820), Moravian Historical Society, Nazareth, Pennsylvania. The first of my family that I know of to come to America were part of the earliest Moravian migration to Pennsylvania, in 1742. This came as a surprise to me, having always assumed that the various mid-19th century immigrations were pretty much the whole story. The early Moravians, like the early Quakers and some of the Brethren today, were "plain" people, wearing simple clothing and living with a strong emphasis on community, although they did take a fairly active part in society in general, unlike the Amish. At the time of this portrait, the single women wore plain dresses with a pink ribbon on their bonnets, and the married women wore blue ones. I find it rather poignant that the name of this sister is not known, nor that of the artist -- though she is not particularly pretty, her face is drawn with a gentle affection and respect.
Peder Severin Krøyer, "The Architect F. Mendahl" (1882). The way that the light plays off of various surfaces -- the gleaming brass, Mendahl's shoes, the tile chimneypiece, the dull woollen suit -- is wonderful.
Sophonisba Anguissola, "The Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia" (1573), Galleria Sabauda, Turin. Oh, the Spaniards!
Rembrandt Peale, "Portrait of Rubens Peale" (1807), National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian, Washington DC. This is of course the same fellow with the geranium, six years on. It's hard not to sympathize with someone about whom the Grove Dictionary of Art via Artnet writes, "Poor eyesight dictated a career in museum management." I find it interesting that in both portraits his spectacles obscure his eyes, instead of being the means of clearer sight.
Sir Edward Lutyens, "Jekyll Sketched by Lutyens" (ca. 1896). Such a concise, economical, yet gentle sketch of the famous gardener, by her friend.