Petrus Cristus – Portrait Of A Young Girl

The miniature perfection of early Flemish painting is present in the smooth, enamel-like modelling of the face, and in the tiny details of the necklace and hat-band, studded with small lustrous pearls. But it is not carried too far, into undiscriminating, crowded, microscopic copying of the model. The detailed, highly finished parts are brought out by plainer, flatter, duller areas into strong selective emphasis. There is a fair amount of realistic portraiture: the adolescent fate is concretely individualized with a few fine, sensitive strokes in mouth and eyes.

But all of these elements are subordinated to decorative pattern. The clear-cut outlines are well related through repetition: horizontal in the wainscoting, mouth and bodice; slanting in the tall hat and the wide V-neck of fur; semi-circular in necklace and hat-band; a series of small, pointed curves in the chin, nose, ear and the black loop on the fore-head. Definite shades of light and dark, flat and rounded areas, are all sharply contrasted in a manner that anticipates Holbein, but with more selective emphasis. The colors and surfaces anticipate Vermeer in their light, cool, fragile daintiness. They are less realistic in texture, less subtly varied in lighting, but similar in decorative appeal and in the particular tints used. These are an intense blue dress, and skin of cream and pale rose with delicate olive shadows, against a plain dark gray-green wall.