Leiden, 7 April 1613–Leiden, buried 9 February 1675
Gerard Dou  is the most famous of the Leiden fijnschilders or ‘fine painters’, a group of artists who produced small pictures with minute details, concentrating on the faithful depiction of different surfaces. Gerard Dou specialized in night scenes and the ‘niche’ format, in which trompe-l’œil windows allowed him to demonstrate his illusionistic skills. He was the youngest son of a glazier, and as a young man trained in that profession in Leiden, first with the engraver Bartholomeus Willemsz. Dolendo (c. 1571–1626) and then with the glazier Pieter Kouwenhorn (1599–1654) or Couwenhorn. He appears as a member of the glaziers’ guild in 1625 and 1627.
In February 1628, however, he was sent to study painting with Rembrandt (1606/7–69), then still in Leiden, and remained with him for three years. He was one of the founding members of the Guild of St Luke in 1648, and also served as ensign (vaendrager) in the local militia company, an indication of his high social status. He enjoyed great success in his lifetime, and his studio was a place of pilgrimage for scholars and aristocrats. In 1665 an exhibition of twenty-nine paintings by Dou was organized in Leiden by his patron, Johan de Bye (1621/2–70/72). Another patron, the Swedish Minister to The Hague Pieter Spiering van Silvercroon (c. 1595–1652), had first right of refusal on his paintings. In 1660 the Dutch States General sent at least one painting by Dou to Charles II of England (1630–65) as part of the Dutch Gift.1 According to Houbraken, one of Dou’s first biographers, the King was so impressed that he invited him to his court. Dou however stayed in Leiden. He attracted large numbers of students, including his nephew Domenicus van Tol (c. 1635–76), Frans van Mieris the Elder (1635–81), Carel de Moor II (1655–1738), Pieter Cornelisz. van Slingelandt (1640–91), Godefridus Schalcken (1643–1706), and possibly Gabriel Metsu (1629–67) and Quiringh van Brekelenkam (1622/30–69/79). He also influenced many other Leiden artists, including Jacob van Spreeuwen (1611–50) and Jan Adriaensz. van Staveren (1613/14–69), not to be confused with Jacob van Staverden or Staveren (c. 1656–after 1716) from Amersfoort.2
Dou’s early career in the 1630s saw him painting portraits, full-length figures, and ‘tronies’ (physiognomic studies; see under Rembrandt imitator, DPG628). His portraits are somewhat stiff, but his images of figures engaged in everyday activities are more lively. Already the characteristics of his style – the meticulous depiction of surfaces and the effects of light on many still life details – are apparent. In the 1640s Dou painted more genre pictures, at the expense of his portraits, placing his subjects in the popular ‘niche’ format. In the 1650s he began to give his genre figures a rather more monumental character, making them larger, while at the same time making even more judicious use of selected still life details. These details could be seen as symbolic and allegorical, but they also allowed him to experiment further with light effects, especially with artificial light, in both genre scenes and depictions of single female figures. During the last two decades of his life he started to paint highly illusionistic still life pictures which he used as shutters to protect his meticulously created paintings (e.g. Related works, no. 9) . He also began to paint unidealized male and female nudes.
In the early catalogues Dulwich had, in addition to A Woman playing a Clavichord (DPG56), two other paintings thought to be by Dou: DPG50 (since 1892 assigned to Brekelenkam) and DPG191 (ascribed variously to Dou and Elsheimer in catalogues between 1817 and 1880; now given to Schalcken). His work was included by Smith in the first volume of his œuvre catalogues of Dutch and Flemish painters (1829), which is a sign of the esteem in which he was held, and also of the availability of his work on the art market at the time. He was highly valued in 18th- and 19th-century European collections until modernism triumphed and more painterly artists came to be preferred: the French art historian Théophile Thoré-Bürger (1807–69) in 1858 was one of the first to criticize Dou, for ‘ces espèces de jongleries en peinture’ (these juggling acts in paint).3 Dou is now once again appreciated.
Baer 1990; Baer 1996; Baer 2000a and b; Saur, xxix, 2001, pp. 176–80 (D. Beaujean); Baer 2009/1990; Ecartico, no. 2579: http://www.vondel.humanities.uva.nl/ecartico/persons/2570 (Dec. 25, 2017); RKDartists&, no. 23986: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/artists/23986 (Dec. 27, 2017).
Self-portrait, dated 1658
panel, oil paint 49,2 x 33,9 cm
lower center : GDOV. 1658.
Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi, inv./cat.nr. 1882; A311 (Berti/Caneva 1979)
Still Life with Silver Ewer, Basin and Cloth
panel, oil paint 102,5 x 82 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre, inv./cat.nr. 1214
DPG56 – A Woman playing a Clavichord
c. 1665; oak panel, 37.7 x 29.8 cm
Seal on the back of the painting, possibly of Sir Francis Bourgeois
1) ?Johan de Bye, Leiden, 18 Sept. 1665, no. 2 (under paintings in cases, i.e. protected by shutters), Een claversimbelspeelster met een tapijt, daghlicht (A woman playing a claversimbel with a tapestry, in daylight), or no. 23, Eerst [sonder kas] een mit een lijst, sijnde een meysge op een claversingel speelende’ (First one [without shutters], with a frame, being a girl playing a claversingel).4
2) ?Maréchal d’Issenghien, Paris, in or before 1754 (Descamps 1753–63, ii (1754), p. 223: Chez M. le Maréchal d’Issenghien, une jeune Femme qui touche du Clavecin (a young woman touching the harpsichord).5
3) Comte du Barry sale, Paris, P. Rémy/P. Lebrun, 21 Nov. ff. 1774 (Lugt 2332), pp. 14–15, lot 30: Une jeune fille jolie & de taille svelte, occupée à toucher du clavecin près d’une croisée: il y a derriere [sic] elle des livres de musique sur une table couverte d’un tapis, une basse est posée contre: une bouteille se remarque dans une cuvette qui est à terre. A gauche sur le devant un carreau de velours sur un tabouret; à droite un rideau de tapisserie, & une cage suspendue au plancher [sic? plafond?]. Ce tableau est le plus intéressant que l’on puisse trouver; son fini est précieux: il est du nombre de ces morceaux dont on ne peut trop faire d’éloge. Il est sur bois, hauteur 14 pouces, largeur 10 pouces 6 lignes’ (A pretty, slender girl playing the clavichord near a window; behind her there are music books on a table covered by a carpet, against which a bass viol rests; a bottle is visible in a basin on the ground. In the left foreground, a square of velvet on a stool; on the right a tapestry curtain, and a cage hanging from the ceiling. This is the most interesting painting imaginable; its finish is priceless; it is one of those things that can never be overpraised. It is on panel, 14 pouces high, 10 pouces 6 lignes wide [c. 37.9 x 28.4 cm]).6 Bt Pierre Rémy or Boileau (?), 5,100 fr.
4) Prince de Conti sale, Paris, P. Rémy, 5 May 1777 (Lugt 2671), lot 325 (almost the same description as for no. 3 above);7 bt Jacques Langlier, 5,000 fr.8
5) Paul Benfield sale, London, Coxe, Burrell and Foster, 30 May 1799 (Lugt 5927), p. 10, lot 64; sold, £242 11s.9
6) Desenfans sale, Skinner and Dyke, 18 March 1802 (Lugt 6380), lot 183;10 £178 10s.; bt in;11 Insurance 1804, no. 118 (‘A Lady playing on the Harpsichord; G. Dow; £500’).
7) Bourgeois Bequest, 1811; Britton 1813, p. 33, no. 354 (‘Closet to S: Drawing Room / no. 6, Lady playing on a spinnet, or harpsd – P[anel] G. Douw’; 1'10" x 1'7").
?Descamps 1753–63, ii (1754), p. 223 (see Provenance, no. 2); Cat. 1817, p. 3, no. 11 (‘FIRST ROOM – South Side; A Lady playing on a keyed Instrument; Dou’); Haydon 1817, p. 371, no. 11 (Gerhard Douw);12 Cat. 1820, p. 3, no. 11; not in Patmore 1824b; ?Smith, i, 1829, p. 16, no. 45, and Smith, ix, 1842, p. 6, no. 14;13 Cat. 1830, p. 7, no. 106; Jameson 1842, ii, p. 459, no. 106 (copy of a painting in the collection of William Wells);14 Denning 1858, no. 106 (Peter Van Slingelandt);15 Denning 1859, no. 106 (Gerard Dow);16 Lejeune (1864–5), ii (1864), pp. 467–8 (Plusieurs belles compositions (several beautiful compositions; i.e. also DPG50, now Brekelenkam, and DPG191, now Godefridus Schalcken (?) after Adam Elsheimer)); Sparkes 1876, p. 57, no. 106; Richter & Sparkes 1880, p. 58, no. 106 (‘Dou; A very remarkable work, unusually rich in composition, and well-preserved’); Havard & Sparkes 1885, p. 177, no. 106; Richter & Sparkes 1892, p. 13, no. 56; Martin 1901, p. 74, 172 (no. 2) or 173 (no. 23), 231 (no. 301 or 302b); Martin 1902, pp. 68, 108, no. 26 (pl. 35), 146 (no. 2) or 147 (no. 23); Richter & Sparkes 1905, p. 13, no. 56 (Dow); HdG, i, 1907, p. 25, pp. 385–6, nos 132–3b (Engl. edn, pp. 389–90);17 Dacier 1910, pp. 16 (no. 30), 21–2, cat. p. 15 (ill.; Related works, no, 2) ; Thompson, i, 1910, fig. 5; Martin 1911, pp. 75, 159 (no. 2) or 160 (no. 23), 190 (no. 162); Martin 1913, pp. xvii, 99 (fig.), 184; Cook 1914, pp. 33–4, no. 56;18 Cook 1926, pp. 32–3; Boström 1949; Cat. 1953, p. 18; Paintings 1954, pp. 13, ; MacLaren 1960, p. 439, under NG2568 (Vermeer; denies any relation with DPG56); Haacke 1968, p. 35 (the instrument is a clavichord); Morawińska 1974, p. 42, no. 30, fig. 45; Kitson 1980, pp. 849, 851; Murray 1980a, p. 51;19 Murray 1980b, p. 12; Sumowski 1983–94, i (1983), pp. 444, 534, no. 287; Sutton 1984a, pp. xli (fig. 57), lxv (note 107);20 Brown 1984, pp. 118 (fig.), 137; Sluijter 1988, p. 52, note 168; Sluijter, Enklaar & Nieuwenhuizen 1988, pp. 113, 115 (note 2), under no. 16; Hecht 1989, pp. 56–9, no. 8; Baer 1990, p. 75, under Cat. 87.4, Cat. 111.1-5 and Cat. 114.2, and under Cat. B 6 (p. 2); MacLaren & Brown 1991, p. 469, under no. NG2568 (J. Vermeer); Sluijter 1991, pp. 59–60 (fig. 12), 63; Liedtke 1992a, p. 335; Third Way 1994; Sumowski 1983–94, vi (1994), p. 3597, no. 287; Buijsen & Grijp 1994, p. 368; Broos & Wheelock 1995, p. 202 (fig. 2); Beresford 1998, p. 90; B. Werche in Schulze 1998, pp. 42–3; Lammertse 1998, p. 70, under no. 20; Wheelock 2000, pp. 13 (fig. 1), 20, 21 (fig. 8), 24; Baer 2000a, pp. 2 (fig.), 39, 124–5, 142–3, no. 30; Gaskell 2000, p. 533 (fig. 63); Laabs 2000, p. 34 (fig.), under Gal. no. 1764 [?Pieter van Slingelandt];21 Shawe-Taylor 2000, pp. 54–5; F. Lammertse in Giltaij 2004, pp. 160–62, no. 40; Neumeister 2005, pp. 353–4 (fig. 340), under no. SG 512 (Anthonie Palamedesz.); Dejardin 2009b, pp. 40–41; Klessmann 2010, pp. 26–7 (fig. 11); Salomon 2010, pp. 42–5, no. 5; M. Wieseman in Vogtherr & Tonkovich 2011, p. 115 (fig. 50), under no. 21 (Godfried Schalcken); Franits 2011, pp. 132–3, figs 84, 149; Christie’s, New York, 25 January 2012, p. 150, under lot 49; Mason 2012, n.p.; Ebert 2013, p. 65 (fig. 2); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, pp. 69–73; Waiboer 2017, pp. 14, 30, 44, 47–8; Wieseman 2017, pp. 52, 58, 62, 135–9, 243 (no. 4.1); RKD, no. 250405: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/250405 (Dec. 25, 2017).
?Leiden 1665; London/Leeds 1947–53, n.p., no. 11 (A. Blunt; wrongly described as signed); London 1976, p. 37, no. 32 (C. Brown); Ten Paintings 1980, pp. 26–7, no. 8 (C. Brown text from London 1976); Amsterdam 1989, pp. 56–9 (P. Hecht); Frankfurt 1998, pp. 42–3, no. 6 (B. Werche); Houston/Louisville 1999–2000, pp. 160–61, no. 51 (I. A. C. Dejardin); Washington/London/The Hague 2000–2001, pp. 124–5, 142–3, no. 30 (R. Baer); Madrid 2003, pp. 110–11, 238 (English transl.), no. 8 (A. Vergara); Rotterdam/Frankfurt 2004–5, pp. 160–62, no. 40 (F. Lammertse); New York 2010, pp. 42–5, no. 5 (X. Salomon); Rome 2012, pp. 120–21, no. 8 (A. K. Wheelock); London 2013, pp. 38–9, no. 4 (M. E. Wieseman); Paris/Dublin/Washington 2017–18, p. 243, no. 4.1 (M. E. Wieseman).
Single-member oak panel. There is a damaged seal (possibly of Bourgeois) on the back. Pale green-grey ground. There are small pentimenti, including a tassel hanging from the crimson cushion and a fold under the right-hand page of the music. Infrared photography has revealed a metal ewer underneath the tablecloth, indicating that the composition of the still life in this area changed somewhat during execution. The paint surface is in good condition, with slight wear and some small restored losses. Previous recorded treatment: 1936, woodworm holes filled; 1967, reframed after burglary; 1989, cleaned and restored.
Apparently not signed or dated. The 1947 catalogue says that there was a ‘GDov’ signature (GD as monogram), but that could not be found in 1976.22 In general the painting is a bit rubbed, which shows especially in the face of the girl: in the UV photograph the outline of the face is sharper. An infrared photograph shows changes in the table on the right: originally there was a ewer, as in Lady at her Toilet in Rotterdam (Related works, no. 8) , which is also depicted on the shutters around the Dropsical Woman in the Louvre (Related works, no. 9) .
The composition is similar to that of Lady at her Toilet (Related works, no. 8), so the rather indistinct space in the background of DPG56 is probably here also meant as a wall covered with decorated leather, as is visible in the UV photograph.23
1) Gerard Dou, A Young Lady playing the Virginal, panel, 39 x 32 cm. Johnny van Haeften, London, 2012 (formerly Gould collection, New York; Alfred de Rothschild, 1884; Earl of Northbrook; William Wells of Redleaf, 1810; ?Gildemeester sale, Philippe van der Schley, Amsterdam, 11 June 1800 (Lugt 6102), lot 34; ?Maréchal d’Issenghien, Paris, in or before 1754 (Descamps, ii, 1754, p. 223);24 ?Johan de Bye, Leiden, 18 Sept. 1665, no. 23;25 Baer B 6 .26
2) Copy: Gabriel de Saint-Aubin, black chalk sketch made in the margin of the catalogue at the comte du Barry sale, Paris, 1774. Institut national d’histoire de l’art, Coll. Jacques Doucet, Paris  .27
3) ?Version: (Pupil of ) Gerard Dou, Girl playing the Harpsichord, panel, 38 x 30.5 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (formerly Imperial collection, Berlin, 1913; Potsdam Palace, 1842; Sanssouci, Berlin, 1763–86); Baer C 67, p. 3 .28
4) ?Copy after 3: ?Dominicus van Tol,29 Girl playing a Virginal, panel, 33 x 27.5 cm. Essex County Council, Chelmsford Shire Hall, 10; not in Baer .30
4a) Copy after 3: Cornelis-Henricus van Meurs after Gerard Dou, Young Woman at the Virginal, c. 1720–30, etching and engraving, 317 x 268 mm. RPK, RM, Amsterdam, RP-P-1908-292 .31
5) Follower of Gerard Dou, Girl and Man at a Clavichord (The Music Lesson), panel, 60 x 46.4 cm. Gemäldegalerie, Dresden, 1764 .32
6) Copy (after DPG56?): Balthasar Beschey sale, Antwerp, Cauldron, 1 July 1776, lot 182 (Lugt 2565).33
7) (including a depiction of no. 1) Adriaan de Lelie, The Art Gallery of Jan Gildemeester, signed and dated A. de Lelie f. Aº 1794–95, panel, 63.7 × 85.7 cm. RM, Amsterdam, SK-A-4100 .34
8) Gerard Dou, Lady at her Toilet, signed and dated Gdov 1667, panel, 75.5 x 58 cm. BvB, Rotterdam, 1186; Baer Cat. 114 .35
9) Gerard Dou, Still Life with Silver Ewer, Basin and Cloth, shutters of The Dropsical Woman, 1663, panel, each 102.5 x 82 cm. Louvre, Paris, 1214 (and 1213); Baer Cat. 87 .36
10) Gerard Dou, The Young Mother, 1658, panel (rounded at the top), 73.5 x 55.5 cm. MH, The Hague, 32; Baer Cat. 76.37
11) Gerard Dou, An Interior with a Young Violinist, signed and dated G. Dou 1637, 32 x 23.5 cm. NGS, Edinburgh, NG 2420; Baer Cat. 26.38
12a) Cornelis Norbertus Gijsbrechts, Trompe-l’œil with Trumpet, Celestial Globe and Proclamation by Frederick III, signed and dated Cornelius Norbertus Gijsbrechts F Ao 1670, canvas, 132 x 201 cm. SMK, Copenhagen, KMSst461.39
12b) Cornelis Norbertus Gijsbrechts, Trompe-l’œil. Paintings, Painter’s Tools and a Flower-Patterned Table-Cover in the Artist’s Studio, probably 1670, canvas, 132 x 199 cm. SMK, Copenhagen, KMSso812 .40
13) Johannes Vermeer, A Young Woman seated at a Virginal, c. 1670–72, canvas, 51.5 x 45.5 cm. NG, London, NG2568.41
14) Johannes Vermeer, Young Woman seated at a Virginal (or Woman in Yellow), c. 1670 or later, canvas, 25.5 x 20.1 cm. The Leiden Collection, New York City, JVe-100 .42
15) Michiel van Musscher, Portrait of the Artist in his Studio, 1673, panel, 37.4 x 28.6 cm. The Leiden Collection, New York City, MM-103.43
16) Michiel van Musscher, Michiel Comans […] and his Third Wife, 1669, canvas, 71 x 63 cm. RM, Amsterdam, SK-A-4135.44
17) Johann Jacob Dorner I, Duke Maximilian III Joseph of Bavaria at the Lathe, with Count von Salern, 1765. Bayerische Verwaltung der Staatlichen Schlosser, Gärten und Seen, Munich .45
Lent to the RA to be copied in 1854.
It seems likely that DPG56 featured in the Leiden exhibition in 1665, where Een claversimbelspeelster (no. 2) and Een meysge op een claversingel speelende (no. 23) are mentioned (see Provenance). The instrument would now be called a clavichord, but many terms have been used since the 17th century. Only two paintings with ‘clavichord’-playing women are among the accepted works of Dou: DPG56 and the Van Haeften painting (Related works, no.1) ; a third picture formerly considered to be a Dou is not accepted by Baer (Related works, no. 3) .46 No others are mentioned in the documents. DPG56 was probably no. 2 in the 1665 exhibition. There has been much confusion about the provenance of DPG56 and the Van Haeften painting, for instance in Hofstede de Groot 1907 and Murray 1980a. The small sketch that Gabriel de Saint-Aubin made in 1774 at the du Barry sale (Related works, no. 2)  is definitely not after the Van Haeften painting, but might well be after DPG56. The painting shown in Adriaan de Lelie’s The Art Gallery of Jan Gildemeester (Related works, no. 7)  is certainly not DPG56, and is most probably the Van Haeften painting.
Apart from a short period around 1850, when DPG56 was thought to be a copy, or attributed to Pieter van Slingelandt,47 it has been regarded as one of Dou’s best works. Its date is thought to be c. 1665 or earlier, which would be acceptable in comparison with dated pieces of similar character, such as The Young Mother of 1658 (Related works, no. 10) and the Lady at her Toilet of 1667 (Related works, no. 8). The presumed presence of DPG56 in the Leiden exhibition of 1665 of course influences its dating. The difference between it and An Interior with a Young Violinist of 1637 (Related works, no. 11) is not so great: there is just a certain stiffness in the earlier painting. Caution is however needed in dating Dou’s pictures, even when they appear to be clearly dated.48
As to the subject, a woman playing an instrument, her gaze in the direction of the onlooker in a comfortable interior, could be a portrait, a history piece, or a so-called burgerlijk figuurstuk (literally a middle-class picture with figures: a genre painting). In general, when there is no specific characterization of persons or situations, as in this case, the third option is the most likely.
Young woman playing at a clavichord, c. 1665
panel (oak), oil paint 37,7 x 29,8 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG056
X-ray of DPG56
Young woman at her toilet, dated 1667
panel, oil paint 75,5 x 58 cm
lower center : GDOV.1667 [GD in ligature]
Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, inv./cat.nr. 1186
Young woman playing a clavichord, c. 1665
panel, oil paint 39 x 32 cm
lower left : GDov
London, art dealer Johnny Van Haeften (London)
Gabriel Jacques de Saint-Aubin
Woman playing the clavichord, 1774
paper, black chalk ? x ? mm
Paris, Institut national d’histoire de l'art
Young woman playing the clavichord, c. 1665
panel, oil paint 38 x 30,5 cm
Berlin/Doorn, private collection Wilhelm II (keizer van Duitsland)
after Gerard Dou
Girl playing a virginal, 1665-1699
panel, oil paint 33 x 27,5 cm
Chelmsford (Engeland), Shire Hall Chelmsford, inv./cat.nr. 10
Cornelis-Henricus van Meurs after Gerard Dou
Young woman playing the clavichord
paper, etching, engraving 317 x 268 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-1908-292
follower of Gerard Dou
Music lesson, c. 1664-1669
panel (oak), oil paint 60 x 46,4 cm
Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden - Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, inv./cat.nr. 1764
Adriaan de Lelie
Art gallery of Jan Gildemeester Jansz. (1744-1799) in his house at the Herengracht in Amsterdam, dated 1794-1795
panel, oil paint 63,7 x 85,7 cm
lower right : A. de lelie F. A° 1794-95
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. SK-A-4100
Cornelis Norbertus Gijsbrechts
Trompe l'oeil with paintings, painter's tools and a flower-patterned table-cover in the artist's studio, 1670-1671
canvas, oil paint 132 x 199 cm
left center : Monsieur/ Mons Cornelius Gijsbrechts/Contervijer v. Ihr konigl/ Mayt. v. Dannemarck/..../Coppehaegen
Copenhagen, SMK - National Gallery of Denmark, inv./cat.nr. KMSsp812
There are many theories about the intention of the artist and interpretations of the subject. They spring essentially from two different, sometimes opposite, points of view. One sees the painting as a meticulous study of objects made of different materials, to produce a konstig, ‘artistic’, work. The other, which started in the 1960s, sees it as full of hidden meanings in the figure and in the relationship of the objects to one another. In such iconographical studies, music-making, especially by the two sexes together, combined with alcohol (as here indicated by the wine glass, wine cooler, flask and vine branch) or the promise of it, is seen to denote love and sex. In DPG56 (and similar compositions) the male is absent but is the onlooker toward whom the girl gazes. Emblem books in particular support such ideas. In 1994 the Christian newspaper Third Way contrasted DPG56 and Rubens’s DPG285: where Rubens’s painting was considered obscene in the 19th century, ‘Dou’s Lady Playing a Clavichord seems very innocent. In fact it is 17th-century pornography, full of coded sexual invitation.’
The argument against seeing DPG56 in this way – and other Dutch paintings for that matter – is that there are no contemporary sources, published or in manuscript, that confirm such an interpretation for a painting as a whole, as opposed to the interpretation of individual objects.
Dou used similar objects in several paintings, but they are never depicted in exactly the same way. The musical instrument on the table in DPG56 – nowadays called a clavichord – is a small portable stringed keyboard instrument used from the 15th century onwards. (In modern Dutch usage a clavecimbel is a harpsichord, a bigger instrument.) The differences between the many forms of keyboard instrument are not very well defined; the instruments in Dou’s paintings are all what we now call the clavichord type, but closest is the virginal or virginaal.49 In a discussion of the erotic element in this painting and the comparable ones, ‘virgin’ in the name of the instrument could be important. Although the insides of the lids are sometimes decorated with painting, Dou seems here to have chosen patterned paper, probably block-printed.50 The instrument standing on the floor to the right is a ‘viol’ or ‘base viol’ – not a cello but a viola da gamba.51
For the curtain, Dou chose a tapestry made in the northern Netherlands, possibly in Delft or Gouda.52 The same tapestry, evidently a studio prop, appears in at least eight other paintings by him, and in at least five paintings by pupils and followers.53 A similar European tapestry appears in a still life by Cornelis Norbertus Gijsbrechts of 1670 (Related works, no. 12b) ; the pendant of that picture (Related works, no. 12a) shows an Eastern tapestry, the artist probably intending a contrast between East and West. Eastern textiles were very popular at the time.54 Whether Dou chose a European textile for aesthetic reasons or to give a ‘Dutch’ touch remains uncertain.
The wine cooler basin is of brass, similar to known examples.55 The flask with a screw top, probably of painted pewter, is, like the basin, a recurrent motif in Dou’s work.56
Dou's influence has often been seen in Vermeer’s Young Woman seated at a Virginal in London (Related works, no. 13), and there are indeed many similarities, as there are with Vermeer’s Woman in Yellow (Related works, no. 14) , generally dated c. 1670–75. Vermeer might have seen Dou’s works in the 1665 exhibition. The paintings have in common the position of the keyboard, nearly parallel to the image but not quite, the position of the body, the hand and the head, and also the gaze. The tapestry in Vermeer’s London picture is also Dutch. His instrument, however, is much larger, and its lid is decorated with a painted landscape.
Other artists whose work shows appreciation or at least knowledge of Dou’s work are Michiel van Musscher and Johann Jacob Dorner. Van Musscher in a Self-Portrait used almost the same tapestry as Dou (Related works, no. 15) and in a double portrait of 1669 he placed a very similar vase with flowers on the windowsill (Related works, no. 16). In 1765 Johann Jacob Dorner painted Duke Maximilian III Joseph of Bavaria in his workshop (Related works, no. 17) ; the position of the Duke, the tapestry, and the open window are clearly based on Dou’s composition, while the clavichord has been transformed into a lathe.57 It is fascinating to see how a 17th-century Dutch bourgeois interior is transformed into an 18th-century Bavarian royal image.
Young woman seated at a virginal, c. 1670-1672
canvas, oil paint 25,1 x 20 cm
New York City, The Leiden Collection, inv./cat.nr. JVe-100
Johann Jacob Dorner (I)
Duke Maximilian III Joseph of Bavaria at the Lathe, with Count von Salern, dated 1765
? x ? cm
München, Gärten und Seen Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser
1 Three paintings were delivered by Dou, but only one was certainly painted by himself, the Young Mother now in The Hague (Related works, no. 10). The second may have been the Young Mother in Berlin (Baer Cat. 77: see note 53 below). The third was a version of The Mocking of Ceres by Adam Elsheimer (see under Schalcken, DPG191), Baer 2000b, pp. 31–2. See for the Dutch Gift of 1660 in general: Broos 1987, p. 111–12; Logan 1979, pp. 75–86; and Van Thiel 1965.
2 On Dou’s patrons and pupils, see Baer 2009/1990, pp. 87–108.
4 The words claversimbel and claversingel were thus used indiscriminately. Translations after Martin 1901, pp. 172–3. De Bye was organizing an exhibition of works of Dou in the ‘Voorcamer’ of Johannes Hannot in Leiden. DPG56 is probably described under no. 2. See also notes 17 and 26.
5 According to GPID (Dec. 5, 2020): Un Tableau, representant une jeune fille, qui joue de l’Epinette (A painting depicting a girl playing the spinet) at auction on 20 July 1739 (Lugt 505 & 1418) whose owner was Feu Mr. Joseph Sansot, Licentié es Loix & Intendant de Monsieur le Prince d’Issenghien, lot 46, ‘haut 1 pied 2 pouces, long 1 pied’ (c. 37.9 x 32.5 cm), transaction unknown; 11.15 [an amount of money]. This could also be Related works, no. 1. It is not impossible that the Prince (or Maréchal) d’Issenghien (Louis de Gand de Mérode Issenghein, 1678–1767) purchased this Dou at the Sansot auction in 1739.
6 Dacier 1910, pp. 16 (no. 30, 5,000 l.), 21–2 . The drawing is on p. 15 of the catalogue; text starts on p. 14.
7 According to Murray 1980a, 51, and Baer 2000a, pp. 124 and 142 (note 2), the auction was on 8 April 1777 (?); from a note in the catalogue it appears that this painting had previously been sold at Langford’s in London as Schalken after Dou. Neither author says in which copy this note was found.
8 GPID (16 Aug. 2013).
9 ‘Gerard Douw – 64 The interior of a chamber with a lady playing on the harpsichord, one of those delicate and high-finished works, of the first class, esteemed the chef d’œuvre of this surprising master, from the cabinet of the Prince de Conti. […] knocked down at Desenfans sale in March 1802 for 170 Gs.’ (ms. annotations in a copy of Desenfans’ 1802 catalogue in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston. Letter from Burton Fredericksen (Getty) to Giles Waterfield, 17 Aug. 1987 (DPG56 file); he suggests that the author was Ange Macquin (1756–1823).
10 Desenfans 1802, ii, pp. 110–13, no. 127. Points at which DPG56 departs from the description are signalled in italic, in square brackets: ‘A Lady at her Harpsichord. In the interior of a richly furnished room, and to the right [middle] of the picture, a young lady is seated at her harpsichord placed under an open window, upon which is a vase filled with flowers; a stool with a crimson velvet cushion is near the harpsichord; and in the centre, suspended from the ceiling, is a bird-cage, to whose little inhabitant the lady is giving a lesson. The left offers a table [this is on the table on the right] covered with tapestry [not covered], on which are a water [wine] glass and a music-book open; a base viol is lying [standing] near, and we see on the floor, beside the table, a large vase in which is a stone bottle, and a vine branch as well as a rich Turkey [European] carpet fixed to the ceiling, but folded so as to give it the appearance of an open curtain.’ Although there are several differences, it is likely that this description refers to DPG56 rather than to Related works, no. 1, as Mason 2012 suggested. NB: at the time the descriptions of pictures were made conversely to the way we do (we take the viewer as starting point).
11 See note 9. The author of the ms. annotations gives ‘170 Gs’. Another sale catalogue in the RKD has the added note: ‘P. 14 h. 12 [c. 37.8 x 32.4 cm] Rich fre [frame]’. The discrepancies between the text and DPG56 are apparent, and indicated in the preceding note.
12 ‘Interior of a Room, with a lady playing on a keyed instrument; which, with furniture, utensils, &c. form the accessories. The perspective is correct; the picture neatly pencilled, and highly finished.’
13 Smith’s description in 1829, ‘A lady, elegantly dressed in a green silk corset, bordered with fur, seated, playing on a virginal, which is placed on a table covered with a Persian carpet; some music books lie on the table, and a violoncello stands against it in front. The lady is represented sitting at a window, the curtain of which is drawn up on one side. A company of three persons and a servant waiting on them, are seen in the back of the room. […] Now in the collection of William Wells, Esq. of Redleaf’, seems to be a combination of DPG56 and Related works, no. 1 . The first part of the description seems to refer to the Van Haeften painting, but the part that starts with ‘some music books’ seems to refer to DPG56. ‘A company of three persons’ looks like the Van Haeften picture again, as there are no people in the background in DPG56. However, some of the descriptions in the sale catalogues mentioned by Smith seem to refer to DPG56 again. In 1842 Smith noted ‘A young Lady seated playing on the harpsichord. See no. 45, Vol. I. […] 220 gs.’
14 ‘Gerard Douw? […] An exquisite picture of this subject was exhibited in the British Institution, 1821, and then belonged to William Wells, Esq. I am inclined to think this picture before us an old Dutch copy of that original, which was once in the possession of Desenfans.’
15 ‘(Peter Van Slingelandt [‘Gerhard Dow’ struck out] or [‘Gerard Douw’ struck out]).’
16 ‘Gerard Dow; The elaborate minuteness with which the accessories are worked up is marvelous.’
17 No. 132 is DPG56, but no. 133 is Related works, no. 1 (as in the Gould collection), but with a provenance in which those of DPG56 and Related works, no. 1 are confused, as Hofstede de Groot himself suspected: ‘It is not clear whether it is the same picture in the auctions that will be mentioned’; the description under HdG 133a relates only to the exhibition of Johan de Bye, 18 Sept. 1665, no. 23 (see note 4 above). It is likely that this refers to Related works, no. 1 (see below, note 26).
18 ‘A remarkable work, unusually rich in composition, and well preserved; the elaborate minuteness of the workmanship is marvellous.’
19 See also note 7 above. According to Murray DPG56 was in the Gildemeester sale in 1800, lot 34. The Gildemeester Dou was however most probably Related works, no. 1 : see for a depiction of the Gildemeester collection Related works, no. 7 ]. Also a J. Paul Getty Trust note of 19 Nov. 1983 asserts: ‘This painting (DPG56) evidently appears’ in the Gildemeester sale (DPG56 file).
20 Sutton suggests that DPG56 is indebted to Jan Steen’s A Young Woman playing a Harpsichord to a Young Man of 1659 (NG856), which was in its turn probably inspired by F. van Mieris, The Duet, 1658 (Schwerin, G82): see also Sutton 1984a, p. 343, under cat. no. 118 (J. Vermeer, Woman holding a Balance, NGA, Washington), fig. 2. See also Seelig 2010, pp. 140–43 (Van Mieris); Vergara & Westermann 2003, pp. 152–3, 248–9, no. 26 (Van Mieris) and pp. 158–9, 250, no. 29 (Steen). For Steen see also Wieseman 2013, pp. 54–5, no. 16.
21 Dou’s The Music Lesson; Westermann (2001, p. 642) in her review of Laabs 2000 prefers the original attribution: Pieter van Slingelandt.
22 London/ Leeds 1947, n.p., no. 11; letter from Peter Murray to Christopher Brown, 15 May 1976 (DPG56 file).
24 See also note 5.
25 See notes 17 and 26.
26 RKD, no. 249487: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/249487 (Dec. 27, 2017). Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 70, fig. 1, under DPG56. In her PhD thesis Baer thought the painting was not by Dou, but after having seen it she revised her opinion, Mason 2012; Martin 1913, p. 98b (fig.); HdG, i, 1907, pp. 385–6, provenance partly under no. 133; Jameson 1842, ii, p. 459, under no. 106; see also notes 5 and 17. It is likely that Hofstede de Groot’s provenances refer to Related works, no. 1, which was probably in the Gildemeester collection: see Related works, no. 7 . According to Michael Ripps Georg Gould in 1898 paid £8,700 less duty for Woman at a clavichord (Agnew stockbooks, no. 8246), Ripps 2011, p. 71 (note 71).
28 RKD, no. 258783: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/258783 (Dec. 27, 2017). Baer mentions it as in the collection of Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, Berlin; see also Martin 1913, p. 97; HdG, i, 1907, p. 386, no. 133b. Prince Louis Ferdinand died in 1994; perhaps one of his seven children inherited the painting (three of them are still alive): see email from Bernd Lindemann, 15 Dec. 2013 (DPG56 file). See note 46 below.
29 As suggested by Wright 1989, p. 64, no. 28.
30 RKD, no. 287805: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/287805 (Jan. 16, 2018); https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/girl-playing-a-virginal-3059/search/actor:dou-gerrit-16131675; Ellis, Roe & Smith 2006, pp. 49, 305.
31 RKD, no. 287812: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/287812 (Jan. 16, 2018); see also http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.collect.153938 (July 22, 2020); Wuestman 2013–14, pp. 135–6, no. 14; with thanks to Manon van der Mullen of the RPK.
33 GPID (19 Aug. 2013): Balthasar Beschey, Een Vrouwken, spelende op de Clavecimbel, na Geeraerd Douw (A Lady playing the Harpsichord, after Gerard Dou). Of course the copy could also have been made after Related works, nos 1, 3 or 4.
34 RKD, no. 5389: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/5389 (Dec. 27, 2017); http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.COLLECT.12124 (Dec. 31, 2017); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 72, fig. 2, under DPG56; Humfrey 2015, p. 226, ill. 3. For Gildemeester’s collection see De Bruyn Kops 1965 and Humfrey 2015 for British purchases at the Gildemeester sale in 1800.
36 RKD, no. 287778: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/287778 (July 22, 2020); the shutters of The Dropsical Woman, signed and dated 1663 G. DOU OVT 66 JAER (i.e. aged 66), see RKD, no. 228993: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/228993 (Dec. 25, 2017). See also Dixon 1995, pp. 113–17 (figs 43–5).
38 RKD, no. 27711: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/27711 (Dec. 27, 2017); https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/an-interior-with-a-young-violinist-209974 (Dec. 27, 2017); see also Baer 2000a, pp. 78–9, no. 8.
39 RKD, no. 21152: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/21152 (Dec. 27, 2017); Koester 1999, pp. 168–71, no. 13, where other interpretations of the pair can be found; for the Eastern carpet see Ydema 1991, pp. 69 (fig. 63), 159, no. 403.
40 RKD, no. 21151: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/21151 (Dec. 27, 2017); Koester 1999, pp. 172–5, no. 14. The tapestry is similar to one in the Museum of National History at Frederiksborg, Hillerød, no. B 2549, ibid., p. 174.
41 RKD, no. 235222: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/235222 (Dec. 27, 2017); see also https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/johannes-vermeer-a-young-woman-seated-at-a-virginal (July 1, 2020); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 72, fig. 3, under DPG56; Wieseman 2013, pp. 66–7, no. 23; Wieseman 2011, pp. 206–7, no. 27; MacLaren & Brown 1991, i, pp. 468–9.
42 RKD, no. 62857: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/62857 (Dec. 27, 2017); https://www.theleidencollection.com/archives/artwork/Johannes_Vermeer_JVe-100_2017-01.pdf (Dec. 27, 2017); Liedtke & Wheelock 2017; Wieseman 2013, pp. 70–71, no. 25; Wieseman 2011, pp. 208–9, no. 28.
43 RKD, no. 228340: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/228340 (July 22, 2020); see also http://www.theleidencollection.com/archives/artwork/Michiel_van_Musscher_MM-103_2017-01.pdf (Dec. 27, 2017); Van Tuinen 2017; Jonker 2012; Gerhardt & Griep-Quint 2012, pp. 12–15, figs 3, 5–10. The tapestry is unusual, as nearly all Van Musscher’s portraits feature Eastern textiles: see Gerhardt & Griep-Quint 2012, passim. Recently Robert Jan te Rijdt attributed the picture to Dominicus van Tol, but not convincingly: Te Rijdt 2012, pp. 469, 470 (fig. 7), 472 (note 23). See also Van Tuinen 2017, p. 5, note 6.
46 Girl playing a Harpsichord, formerly or perhaps still in Berlin (Martin 1913, p. 97; Related works, no. 3), is not accepted by Baer; see also note 28 (Lindemann).
47 Jameson 1842 (copy), and Denning 1858 (Van Slingelandt).
48 Based on the architectural details, Friso Lammertse proved that The Quack (BvB, Rotterdam, St.4), which is dated 1652, could only have been finished in or after 1677: F. Lammertse in Giltaij 2004, pp. 154–6, no. 38. See also Lammertse 1997, pp. 114–15, 120; Baer Cat. 58; Baer 2000a, pp. 100–103.
49 Rech & Janson 2012, see http://www.essentialvermeer.com/music/vermeer_and_virginals.html (July 22, 2020). Van Dijck & Koopman 1987.
50 A similar German instrument in the Horniman Museum, London, of 1575, has a painted lid.
51 Wieseman 2013, pp. 19 (fig. 10), 74 (s.v. viol).
52 Baer 2009/1990, Cat 113.2, note 1: ‘The tapestry is probably a not-very-expensive 17th-century Netherlandish “verdure” or “forest-work” tapestry; per conversation with Edith Standen, 7 October 1988.’ According to Hillie Smit (several emails to Michiel Jonker, 2012; DPG56 file) Dou’s tapestry has similarities to a Flemish tapestry from Oudenaarde (second half of the 16th century) in Delmarcel 1999, p. 192; indeed the border, including the corner, is almost identical, but the image (with a face and a capital, or is it a crown?) is not.
53 It appears in Dou's Visit to the Doctor, 1660–65, in Copenhagen (RKD, no. 250310: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/250310; Baer Cat. 98; see Baer 2000a, pp. 116–17, no. 26); in The Violin Player in Dresden (RKD, no. 52494: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/52494; Baer Cat. 108); in The Dropsical Woman, 1663, in the Louvre (Baer Cat. 87; see also Related works, no. 8); in The Doctor in the Hermitage (RKD, no. 38185: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/38185; Baer Cat. 113; see also note 56 below); in The Young Mother in Berlin (RKD, no. 250235: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/250235; Baer Cat. 77; see also note 1 above); in Lady at her Toilet in Rotterdam (Baer Cat. 114; Related works, no. 8); in a Self-Portrait in a private collection, Boston (RKD, no. 231069: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/231069; not in Baer 1990; see Baer 2000a, pp. 122–3, no. 29; ex Haeften); and in Maid with a Basket of Fruit in Waddesdon Manor (RKD, no. 236309: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/236309; Baer Cat. 70; Chapman 2011, p. 77 (fig. 44)).
54 Ydema 1991, passim.
55 e.g. RM, Amsterdam, K.O.G. 1462 (Ter Kuile 1986, p. 275, no. 372); RM, Amsterdam, N.M. 4691 (ibid., p. 276, no. 373); and Amsterdam Museum, KA 13283 (http://hdl.handle.net/11259/collection.19685 (Dec. 31, 2017)).
56 The flask also appears in the versions of The Doctor in the Hermitage (RKD, no. 38185: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/38185; Baer Cat. 113; see also note 53 above) and KHM, Vienna (RKD, no. 250156: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/250156; Baer Cat. 62); in Lady at her Toilet in Rotterdam (Related works, no. 8); and in W. J. Laquy, copy after Dou, Triptych: Allegory of Art Training, RM, Amsterdam, SK-A-2320-A/B/C (RKD, no. 25625; https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/25625; RKD, no. 2119: https://rkd.nl/explore/images/2119; RKD, no. 25039: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/25039). It also features in ?Pieter van Slingelandt, The Music Lesson in Dresden (Related works, no. 5). A similar, though not identical, flask was a favourite prop of Willem Kalf, used by him in at least five still lifes: Giltaij, Van den Brink & Meijer 2006, cat. nos 16–19 and 21. For a French 17th-century pewter flask see Gaba-van Dongen 2006, p. 28 (fig. 8).
57 The chair and the little dog in Dorner’s picture, however, are inspired by Dou’s pupil Frans van Mieris the Elder. His Young Woman standing before a Mirror, also in Munich (see Dekiert 2006, pp. 126–7, also note 53 above), has Dou’s tapestry, hanging in different folds, and the chair and the dog. In Dorner’s painting the dog is reversed left to right, and Van Mieris’s ‘Dagobert chair’ is modernized into a mid-18th-century chair.