Portrait of a Woman with a Book.

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Belle Silveira Gorski (1877–1930).


Portrait of a Woman with a Book.


Pencil drawing, 10¾ x 6 in.

Although not widely known today, Belle Silveira Gorski made this beautiful, captivating portrait of an unknown sitter in the early 1900s. Drawn with great technical skill, the image proves how the humble pencil can create a work of refinement, precision, and polish, delivering a portrait both crisp and shadowy. The draped shoulders, the ring on her left hand, swirled hair, floral accents, and, of course, the book suggest a woman of style and substance who wouldn’t be out of place in a story by Edith Wharton or Henry James.

I collect drawings of people reading or with books, and this has been hanging in my office for more than twenty years. Its appeal comes not only from its subtlety and virtuosity; it serves as a daily inspiration and antidote to the hectic pace and mindless preoccupations of contemporary life. Here she sits, serene and self-possessed, an elegant reminder to recalibrate every once in a while, make one’s life as beautiful as one can, and definitely, always, have a book at hand.


Cheryl Hurley