Rus Articles Journal

Gabriel Metsyu, “Woman behind a harpsichord“. What interesting is in her life?

of Gabrielle Metsu (1629-1667) - the Dutch artist, the portraitist, the genre painter. Among its cloths one raises more questions, than answers. It - “The woman behind a harpsichord“ (her name in English of “Lady at a Virginal“).

Really, in the forefront - the woman sitting at a harpsichord. It is dressed rather modestly, than richly, clothes of some faded flowers. The smooth hairdress, hair are collected by knot on a nape. No jewelry is visible. It as if rather poor, though rather well-to-do - the harpsichord was not accessory of poor houses. It is dressed not home-style, but one shoe is taken off (as if waits for someone, but for a minute relaxed).

In a doorway it is visible one more room. On a chest the girl, seemingly, sits a sad look that listens to music. Near it the broom which takes nearly central place in a picture. One more being - a doggie to which the hostess talks.

From features of a picture it should be noted first of all something like a panel or a cartouche opposite to the woman. The inscription in Latin is not read completely, but it is possible to assume that its meaning is conveyed by words: “I hope for your favor, My God!“

At windows - red portieres, one prisobrana is also lifted, the second is dismissed.

It is natural to assume that each element of a picture bears some semantic loading. As Vane Franits in the work devoted to Peter de Hokh`s picture “The woman writes cooks for the boy sandwich“, “writers of the seventeenth century often associate the broom, the ware used for cleaning with spiritual and moral purity“. Besides, the servant sweeping the floor performs purely symbolical work - it sweeps away defect traces.

A doggie, one may say, too not without sin - it represents a sin. A small doggie - a sin small.

So, red portieres, the broom, a doggie - all this suggests an idea that this house - not innocent.

We will address the name of a picture. Nobody knows who gave to a picture such name - the artist, owners of a picture or art critics. If the author did not name, he should be thought up at least in order that precisely the nobility about what subject there is a speech. Incidentally or not, but in the name of a picture there is a word “Lady“, one of the translations of which is “dear prostitute“. And the inscription on a panel gets a deep meaning: “Rescue and keep!“ Rescue from misfortunes like undesirable pregnancy and keep from diseases.

The translation of the name of the picture “Dear Prostitute at a Harpsichord“ is how right now? The author, Gabriel Metsyu unambiguously could answer this question. Absolutely not clearly, whether he saw what drew, or thought up. Very much can be that if not all picture, then its details were once spotted by it. Red curtains at that time could be a signal that here it is possible to receive the desirable. It is very probable that the provision of curtains said to passersby about whether the woman of easy virtue is free now: lowered - a half is busy, lifted - access is open, both curtains - are lifted sanitary hour (approximately so).

It seems, in painting (at least, that time) it is the only case of designation of a profession of the hostess.

Probably, the well-known red lamps went from here...

(In the name in the original on Netherlands “Vrouw aan het virginaal“ there is one more subtlety: the word virginal can be translated as virgin. If it is possible to be expressed so - a combination incongruous, an untranslatable word-play.)