'In the details of domestic life, Dutch habits, Dutch furniture, and Dutch dress of the gentler and more courtly sort in the seventeenth century, Mrs Alma-Tadema has unconventional, honest and ... homely grace ... The artist has surrounded herself by relics and remains of the time and the country she loves, ... and thus her pictures seem to be produced within a genuine little Holland, in a genuine seventeenth century, without the blunders of ordinary historical research'. So wrote Alice Meynell in a tribute to Laura Alma-Tadema's artistic achievements in the Art Journal of 1883, p. 345.
Laura Theresa Alma-Tadema (her initials are found within a heart shape on the window panes in the present picture) was the daughter of George Napoleon Epps, a well-known homeopathic doctor. She met the Dutch artist Lawrence Alma-Tadema at a party given by the Madox Browns in Fitzroy Square in the winter of 1869-70. She was seventeen, he thirty-three, and he was already contemplating a move to England. Meeting Laura was the deciding factor, and after becoming his pupil they married eighteen months later.
Laura wisely avoided the elaborate reconstructions of the ancient world that were Alma-Tadema's speciality, and instead immersed herself in the art of her husband's homeland. Her love of the decorative arts of Holland, for example the stamped leather and blue delft tiles seen in the present picture hanging behind the young lady dressed in the Dutch national colour, orange for the House of Orange, were also to be found in the interiors she created, first at Townshend House, Regent's Park, and later at 17 Grove End Road, St John's Wood. The windows in the present picture, with their distinctive leadwork, were to be found in her studio. Grove End Road, which had formerly belonged to Tissot, was also the setting for A Looking Out o'Window (Sunshine), sold at Christie's, London, 14 June 2000, lot 21, (£168,750) (fig. 2) . In the quiet stillness of her pictures such as Sweet Industry (fig. 3), now in Manchester City Art Gallery, she echoes and evokes the world of Vermeer (fig. 4).
Laura followed her husband's habit of numbering her pictures with consecutive opus numbers. On this account we may date the picture to circa 1898.
We are grateful to Professor Vern G. Swanson, Director of the Springville Museum of Art, Utah, for his help in preparing this catalogue entry. This picture will be illustrated in his forthcoming book on Laura and Anna Alma-Tadema.