(b. 1410/20, Baarle, d. 1475/76, Brugge)

Portrait of a Young Girl

c. 1470
Oak, 29 x 23 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Although the general quality of Petrus Christus's work is in doubt, a single painting, generally dated from the end of his active life, is convincing. It is the Portrait of a Young Girl in the Staatliche Museen in Berlin. The surface has the brilliance of porcelain and the purity of the overall effect looks forward to Vermeer. The lively expression of the girl and her oblique glance, suggesting that something or someone just outside the frame has caught her attention, contrasts with the frontal composition. The pink of her cheeks and lips introduces some warmth into the face, while the pure white and brown-black of the eyes echo the underlying tones of the wall behind her. Petrus Christus's portraits were once condescendingly described as rough-hewn and stilted. Yet this young girl is surely closer to Upton's description of her: "a polished pearl, almost opalescent, lying on a cushion of black velvet".