Little is known about this unsigned painting except what the inscription states: the sitter's name is Barbara Kressin, she is seventeen years old, and the painting's date is 1544. Her costume, name, and hairstyle declare that she was German, but scholars know nothing more about her.
Revealing Kressin's interior life or personal character was not the artist's goal. He created a harmony of muted tones accented by the bright spots of her hair, gold collar, necklace, belt, and cuffs. Standing in a crisp black silk dress and impassively gazing away from the viewer, Kressin appears more like a pristine ceramic doll than a living, breathing individual. The elegant gloves in her hands--and the hat that the painter originally placed on her head and later painted out--further emphasize the formality of the portrait.