National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Suitor's Visit Gerard ter Borch the Younger (painter)
Dutch, 1617 - 1681
The Suitor's Visit, c. 1658
oil on canvas
overall: 80 x 75 cm (31 1/2 x 29 1/2 in.) framed: 110.8 x 106 x 12.7 cm (43 5/8 x 41 3/4 x 5 in.)
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
1937.1.58
On View
From the Tour: Johannes Vermeer and Dutch Scenes of Daily Life in the 1600s
Object 6 of 8

From a prosperous social class himself, Ter Borch traveled more extensively than any other seventeenth-century Dutch artist, visiting England, Italy, Spain, Flanders, Germany, and probably France. His pictures’ calm moods and brilliant renditions of fabrics set a precedent for later painters such as Vermeer and Metsu.

A comparison with Gabriel Metsu’s Intruder is instructive about viewers’ differing perceptions and expectations. At first glance, the Ter Borch and Metsu paintings seem quite similar. Fashionable rooms hung with tooled, gilt leather are furnished in the most opulent styles. If anything, today’s museum-goer would assume that the hilarity in the Metsu was improper. To contemporaries of the artists, though, it was Ter Borch’s Suitor’s Visit that was teasingly ribald.

Ter Borch’s “suitor” is a client at a high-class brothel, and the “lady” answering the door is pricing her favors. Among the hidden clues is the other man who, warmed by the fireplace, recalls the heat of love. The seated woman idly strums a stringed instrument as a prelude to passion. Opposing the faithful spaniel in Metsu’s work, the dog in Ter Borch’s painting may stand for bestiality.

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