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Gallery Text

A contemporary of Jan van Eyck claimed that the artist painted a number of pictures of women bathing. Although these paintings are now lost, this panel, dating to the early sixteenth century, is believed to be a copy after one such work and, because of compositional similarities, has often been associated with van Eyck’s celebrated Arnolfini portrait.

The painting depicts a nude woman washing herself at her basin. Beside her is a fully clothed maid, who gazes toward a mirror in which both figures are reflected, their positions slightly distorted by the convex glass. Despite its contemporary setting, scenes like this often had allegorical or moral meanings, and scholars have suggested a number of identifications for the female figure, including Bathsheba, Venus, Eve, Luxuria and Vanitas. The painting’s enigmatic quality, however, was likely always part of its appeal.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
(?) After Jan van Eyck, Netherlandish (c. 1390 - 1441)
Previously attributed to Unidentified Artist
Woman at Her Toilet
Work Type
early 16th century
Creation Place: Europe, Netherlands
Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2500, European Art, 13th–16th century, Art and Image in Europe
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Physical Descriptions
Oil on oak panel
27.2 x 16.3 x 0.7 cm (10 11/16 x 6 7/16 x 1/4 in.)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Francis H. Burr, Louise Haskell Daly, Alpheus Hyatt Purchasing and William M. Prichard Funds
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990)

Norman Land, "Giovanni Bellini, Jan van Eyck, and the 'Paragone' of Painting and Sculpture", Source: Notes in the History of Art (Fall 1999), vol. XIX, no. 1, pp. 1-8, pp. 5-7, repr. as fig. 3

Jacques Paviot, "Les Nus Profanes de Jan van Eyck", Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 6e periode (May 2000-June 2000), vol. CXXXV, no.1576/1577, pp.265-282, pp. 265-266, repr. as fig. 1

Bernard Aikema, ed., Renaissance Venice and the North: Crosscurrents in the time of Bellini, Durer and Titian, exh. cat., Bompiani Arte (Milan, Italy, 2000), repr. p. 230

Ron Spronk, "Three Boutsian Paintings in the Fogg Art Museum: Technical Examinations and Art Historical Implications", Bouts Studies: Proceedings of the International Colloquium [1998], ed. Bert Cardon, Uitgeverij Peeters (Leuven and Sterling, Virginia, 2001), p. 426, repr. in b/w p. 429

Marilyn Aronberg Lavin, The Liturgy of Love: Images from the Song of Songs in the Art of Cimabue, Michelangelo and Rembrandt, Spencer Museum of Art (Lawrence KS, 2001), repr. p. 102 as fig. 127

Till-Holger Borchert, The Age of Van Eyck: The Mediterranean World and Early Netherlandish Painting 1430 -1530, exh. cat., Ludion Amsterdam-Ghent (Bruges, Belgium, 2002), cat. no. 36, p. 239, repr. in colour

Peter Klein, "Dendrochronological Analyses of Netherlandish Paintings", Recent Developments in the Technical Examination of Early Netherlandish Painting, ed. Molly Faries, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge MA, 2003), pp. 65-81, p. 73; p. 80, in table 5

Gianfranco Pocobene and Ron Spronk, "The Fogg Art Museum's 'Virgin and Child' from the Workshop of Dirk Bouts: Findings from Technical Examinations and Recent Conservation Treatment": Methodology, Limitations, & Perspectives, Recent Developments in the Technical Examination of Early Netherlandish Painting, ed. Molly Faries, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2003), pp. 97-106, repr. as fig. 2

Teri Hensick, "The Fogg's Copy After a Lost van Eyck: Conservation History, Recent Treatment, and Technical Examination of the 'Woman at her Toilet'", Recent Developments in the Technical Examination of Early Netherlandish Painting, ed. Molly Faries, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2003), pp. 83-95, pp. 83-95; figs. 3 - 9; repr. in color as pls. 6 and 7

Henri Zerner, Renaissance Art in France: The Invention of Classicism, Flammarion (Paris, France, 2003), repr. p. 217 as fig. 228

Bernhard Ridderbos, "Objects and Questions", Early Netherlandish Paintings: Rediscovery, Reception and Research, Amsterdam University Press (Amsterdam, 2005), pp. 4-172, p. 68, repr. in color p. 68 as fig. 27

Koichi Motoki, Jan van Eyck, Shogakukan Inc. (Japan, 2007), repr. p. 78

Albert Châtelet, Hubert et Jan van Eyck: créateurs de l'Agneau mystique, Editions FATON (Dijon, France, 2011), pp. 188, 285, repr. on both pages

Jean-Philippe Postel, L'affaire Arnolfini: Enquête sur un tableau de Van Eyck, Actes Sud (Arles, 2016), pp. 124-126, repr. p. 124

Maximiliaan Martens and Till-Holger Borchert, ed., Van Eyck, exh. cat., Thames & Hudson (London, 2020), p. 50, fig. 2.10

Exhibition History

Northern European Art from 1450 to 1550, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/13/1994 - 02/05/1995

The age of Van Eyck : the Mediterranean world and early Netherlandish painting,, Groeningemuseum, Brugge, 03/14/2002 - 06/30/2002

32Q: 2500 Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at