Portrait of Dame Étiennette
A middle-aged woman dressed in a coif and layers of plain white clothing--connoting the purposes of comfort and utility--faces the viewer for a portrait. Her direct gaze and slight smile imply that she knows the onlooker well, and in fact it is thought that she may have been a domestic in Phillippe de Champaigne's home. An inscription on the subject's laced bodice indicates this with an abbreviation: "Gardi," meaning "gardienne" or caretaker, beneath the name, "Dame Étiennette." The manner in which this drawing is executed, with its veracity of observation and varied brushwork, conveys what must have been before the artist: subtle degrees of shadow and light and texture defining structures of bone, skin, and fabric. Soft, watery washes denote both shadows on the wall as well as the volume of the woman's figure. A dry-brush technique offers a tactile quality to what we see, from the linen cloth of the dress to the softness of aging skin.
Brush and gray ink (1647)
by Philippe de Champaigne (French, 1602-1674)
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