Painting Fabric Folds

During the holidays, I had the chance to compare fabric painted over the centuries and think about how types of fabric reflect light differently. Silk, wool, cotton and even the color of each or how they're draped make such a difference. I was surpised however, that generally, techniques didn't change that much over time. Looking at the Rembrandt painting below (1634), I can assume the fabric is cotton voile...and all the interesting folds are captured with (his equivalent of) Titanium White and Payne's Gray. Of course, Rembrandt also captures the reflection on her right cheek of the light from the collar bouncing back on her, the neck shadow shows through the voile, and even the individual eyebrow hairs are there. When you get close to this painting...I must say, it almost looks easy, and then when you back away, you think, "whoa, how did that ruff start looking so real?" Not to mention the complex feeling expressed in the woman's lips and eyes...but I digress. I love the way Rembrandt always adds a touch of white to the lower eyelid and on the nose. And how crisp that little bit of white makes the outer edges of her bonnet and edges of the ruff. Still digressing...It makes me want to ask, "and how did they wash and iron those things?"