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Gabriel Metsu (Leiden 1629-1667 Amsterdam)
Gabriel Metsu (Leiden 1629-1667 Amsterdam)

An officer paying court to a young woman in an interior

Gabriel Metsu (Leiden 1629-1667 Amsterdam)
An officer paying court to a young woman in an interior
signed 'GMetsu' (GM in monogram, lower centre on the footwarmer)
oil on canvas
16 x 14 in. (40.6 x 35.5 cm.)
Described by Hofstede de Groot, loc. cit., as (Possibly) Hendrik Verschuuring, Finance Minister of the United Provinces, by 1754 (see note).
Rothschild inv. no. AR859.
Descamps, La Vie des Peintres, II (according to Smith).
(Possibly) J. Smith, A Catalogue Raisonn, etc., IV, London, 1833, p. 100, no. 85.
1903 Theresianumgasse Inventory, p. 31, no. 57.
C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonn, etc., I, London, 1908, p. 308, no. 176, and presumably also p. 294, no. 145, '"An interior with two figures" - In the collection of the late N. von Rothschild, Vienna.'
1934 Theresianumgasse Inventory, p. 186, no. 315.
G. Heinz and F. Klauner, eds., Katalog der Gemldegalerie, II, Teil, Vlamen, Hollnder, Deutsche, Franzosen, Vienna, 1963, no. 245.
S.J. Gudlaugsson, 'Kanttekeningen bij de ontwikkeling van Metsu', Oud Holland, LXXXIII, 1968, p. 26, note 30, p. 35, note 76.
U.M. Schneede, 'Gabriel Metsu und der hollndische Realismus', ibid., pp. 47 and 50.
K. Demus, ed., Katalog der Gemldegalerie, Hollndische Meister des 15., 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts, Vienna, 1972, p. 57, fig. 72.
F.W. Robinson, Gabriel Metsu, New York, 1974, p. 85, note 103, p. 219, fig. 215.
C. Brandsttter, ed., Die Gemldegalerie des Kunsthistorischen Museums in Wien, Verzeichnis der Gemlde, Vienna, 1991, inv. no. 9099, p. 83, fig. 547.
Vienna, 1873, no. 120.
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, inv. no. 9099, since 1947.

Lot Essay

Hofstede de Groot, who, loc. cit, lists this picture twice in his catalogue raisonn gives as the provenance of no. 176: 'Possibly the picture once in the collection of H. Verschuuring.' In this, he is presumably following Smith, loc. cit., who lists as no. 85 'A woman presenting a glass of wine to an officer', with measurements that correspond to the present picture. However, Smith gives as provenance the Verschuuring collection, 1754, in the sale of whose estate (Rietmulder, The Hague, 17 September 1770, and successive days) lot 106 was described as a work by Metsu depicting 'Een Vrouw, die een Officier een glas Wyn wil inschenken; verder twee, die met de kaart speelen, terwyl een derde 't aanziet, met verder bywerk...'. It seems most probable that Smith, in referring to the present picture, confused it with that in the Verschuuring collection.

Gudlaugsson, loc. cit., and Schneede, loc. cit., both date this work to shortly before 1660. Gudlaugsson also suggests that it was a basis for the painting of Ascagnes and Lucelle by Jan Steen, formerly in the collection of the Marquesses of Bute (for which see K. Braun, Jan Steen, Rotterdam, 1980, p. 132, no. 312, illustrated p. 133).

The underlying subject matter of this picture recurs in many of the artist's works. In his article on Metsu's Le corset bleu, Alastair Lang (catalogue to the 1995 exhibition, In Trust for the Nation, Paintings from National Trust Houses, London, National Gallery, 1995, p. 178, no. 65) notes that 'the association of a young cavalier and an elegant woman with music and a glass of wine ... was, in the context of Dutch painting, clearly intended to hint at amorous activity.' He mentions the various items that reinforce this undercurrent, including the footwarmer, alluding to the warmth of passion (for which see ibid., no. 65, note 1, p. 219); the dog, the embodiment of lechery and infidelity 'seemingly taking alarm for that of his mistress'. Indeed Gudlauggson, loc. cit., describes the scene as a Bordeelscne, and suggests that the cards on the floor allude to misfortune. Laing, however, notes that 'it is difficult to know at what point such readings say more about the mind of the commentator than about the intentions of the artist!'

It is interesting to note that Le corset bleu, one of the more celebrated of Metsu's works, was purchased, probably during the winter of 1878-9, by Baron Lionel de Rothschild (1808-1879), M.P., first cousin of Anselm von Rothschild, who acquired the present picture.

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