Urgent Museum Notice

Portrait of a Woman with a Black Hood

Close up of Portrait of a Woman with a Black Hood

Oval-shaped portrait of a light-skinned woman with short dark curls. Dressed in black with white lace details, a black hood covers her head. Her brown eyes gaze directly at the viewer, her expression slightly tense.

Mary Beale, Portrait of a Woman with a Black Hood, ca. 1660; Oil on canvas, 28 x 23 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Bequest of John N. and Dorothy C. Estabrook

Portrait of a Woman with a Black Hood
Mary Beale

Commissions for half-length portraits, such as this one, enabled Mary Beale to earn her living, supporting her husband and children with her income.

Here, she portrays an unidentified woman surrounded by a painted oval frame that includes the sitter’s age at the upper right: Ætais [sic] 55. Beale uses light and shadow to create the illusion that the painted frame is three dimensional, which gives greater depth to the image.

Dressed predominantly in black, the woman is most likely a widow. Fine white lace trims the scalloped edges of her black hood, indicating her relatively high social standing. Beale’s sympathetic treatment of the woman’s face illustrates her skill at flattering her sitters without unduly idealizing them.

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    Mary Beale
  • Title

    Portrait of a Woman with a Black Hood
  • Date

    ca. 1660
  • Medium

    Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions

    28 1/4 x 23 1/2 in.
  • Donor Credit

    Bequest of John N. and Dorothy C. Estabrook
  • On Display

    No