National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Intruder Gabriel Metsu (artist)
Dutch, 1629 - 1667
The Intruder, c. 1660
oil on panel
overall: 66.6 x 59.4 cm (26 1/4 x 23 3/8 in.) framed: 93.4 x 85.1 x 12.1 cm (36 3/4 x 33 1/2 x 4 3/4 in.)
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
1937.1.57
On View
From the Tour: Johannes Vermeer and Dutch Scenes of Daily Life in the 1600s
Object 2 of 8

The Protestant Dutch had a reputation for strict social conduct. Demonstrations of emotion were encouraged only on rare occasions such as betrothal, when a suitor must prove his passion. This painting chronicles such a prearranged “transgression” among the wealthy classes of Amsterdam. A cavalier bursts into his beloved’s bedroom, much to the amusement of an older woman, perhaps her mother. A housekeeper, identified by keys dangling from her apron, playfully pretends to restrain him.

The sumptuous bedroom contains a number of objects serving as symbols that would be immediately understood in Metsu’s society. The dog is surely an emblem of fidelity, while the unlit candle implies virginity.

To maintain order in this complex pantomime, which is Metsu’s most elaborate composition, the figures are arranged along a diagonal axis. Metsu’s style was influenced by Gerard Ter Borch, whose Suitor’s Visit is also in the National Gallery of Art. Both artists excelled at rendering satins and velvets, laces and furs.

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