Renaissance-era art has a clear standard of beauty for women – just one of the reasons why the central piece of The National Gallery’s new exhibition is so fascinating. ‘An Old Woman’ (also known as ‘The Ugly Duchess’) by Flemish painter Quinten Massys has long been considered a cruel joke at the expense of the woman in the picture, but The Ugly Duchess: Beauty and Satire in the Renaissance seeks to examine the intent behind the artwork a bit more. In the exhibition, The Ugly Duchess is reunited with her companion, The Old Man (on rare loan from a private collection), so we can see Massys’ original parody of the traditional marriage portrait. We also see that the marriage portrait roles have been switched and that the Duchess is “subversive, fierce, and defiant – brazenly flouting the conventions of her day”. The 16th-century painting will appear alongside other artworks to explore how women, old age and appearance were satirised and demonised in the Renaissance.