Bartholomaus (or Barthel) Bruyn painted many portraits of the wealthy citizens of Cologne, which typically represent both his sitters’ material prosperity and their virtue. In this example, the decorative object of devotion once again hovers between an expression of piety and a sign of worldly wealth. The sombre hue of the woman’s robe serves to enhance the astonishingly detailed vibrancy of the trimmings – fur, gold jewellery, fine embroidery, and pearls. Along with these indications of her status, the woman holds a rosary with a large and beautifully-decorated prayer bead; the activity of her fingers among the beads perhaps relates to her pensive expression, indicating the contemplative direction of her thoughts.
Click on the prayer bead to find out more.