Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890), Antwerp, December 1885
oil on canvas,
46.3 cm x 38.5 cm
Credits (obliged to state): Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
Van Gogh hoped to earn some money as a portrait painter during his stay in Antwerp. He had heard that likenesses of women sold well. However, only women from the poorer segments of the population were willing to pose for an unknown painter. Van Gogh found his models among the women who worked in the port city’s cafés. They were often obliged to earn extra money as prostitutes, and this probably was the case for the woman portrayed here. Van Gogh was impressed with these ‘common’ women. He perceived an authenticity in them that he wanted to capture on canvas.
Van Gogh painted this portrait in one sitting. For the shiny earring he applied a thick blob of white-and-pink paint, which broke off later. He probably depicted the same woman in another work as well, though without jewellery and with her hair loose.