Solved: mystery of The Ugly Duchess

From the Guardian: Solved: mystery of The Ugly Duchess – and the Da Vinci connection.

She is one of the most popular paintings in the National Gallery, whose rather unfortunate looks inspired illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. But one question has always puzzled: did the poor lady really look like this?

Today the Guardian can reveal that she did and was suffering from an exceptionally rare form of Paget’s disease – an abnormality of the metabolism that enlarges and deforms the bones.

The portrait, An Old Woman, painted by the Flemish artist Quinten Massys in 1513, is popularly known as The Ugly Duchess and will be part of the National Gallery’s eagerly awaited exhibition Renaissance Faces: Van Eyck to Titian, which opens next Wednesday.

Curators are particularly excited about this painting because [continue, see painting]

2 thoughts on “Solved: mystery of The Ugly Duchess

  1. I’m always intrigued by the notion that there can be a beautiful rendering of an ugly object or person. Just as I have always been startled by a beautifully written book full of evil and the glorification thereof (King James version comes to mind–parts thereof, such as Revelation). How is it possible to put so much love into an evil/ugly outcome?

    I agree with A.M. that it looks more like a man than a woman.

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