Ter Borch and Music
The Suitor's Visit, c. 1658
oil on canvas
80 x 75 cm (31 x 29 9/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
|Gerard ter Borch's paintings often allude to music, a common seventeenth-century metaphor for love and harmony between family members, lovers, or friends. In The Suitor's Visit, the arrival of a gentleman has interrupted a duet. A young woman has risen to greet him, leaving her bass viol and sheet music on the table, while her seated friend continues to strum a lute. In the seventeenth century, both the lute and viol often accompanied singing. Listen to a soloist singing to the accompaniment of seventeenth-century Dutch music played on instruments similar to those in Ter Borch’s painting.
Music: "Queen Alcyone’s Dream" from Haarlem Winter Flowers, 1645/1647; performed by Camerata Trajectina, Pickled Herring, Music from the time of Frans Hals, 2003 (MP3 832k) Audio help
The Music Party, c.1668/1670
oil on panel
58.1 x 47.3 cm (22 7/8 x 18 5/8)
Cincinnati Art Museum, Bequest of Mary M. Emery
|Many seventeenth-century songbooks were entirely devoted to love songs because musical gatherings offered prime opportunities for flirtatious social encounters between men and women. Here, the two young men are apparently singing, although the gaze of the seated youth suggests that his interest lies more with the young woman than with the songbook in his hands. The woman plays a French lute, which has a separate pegbox for a set of longer bass strings. This instrument was especially popular in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries when it served mainly to accompany another musical instrument or singing. Listen to two selections of seventeenth-century music. The first selection is of a French lute; the second selection is a vocal with lute accompaniment.
Music: Nicholas Hotman (died 1663), Courante; performed by Camerata Trajectina, Music from the Golden Age, 1992 (MP3 544k) Audio help
Constantijn Huygens (1596 - 1687), What shall we do?, 1640; performed by Camerata Trajectina, Music from the Golden Age, 1992 (MP3 2.1MB) Audio help
The Music Lesson, c. 1668/1669
oil on canvas
58.1 x 70.2 cm (34 x 27 5/8)
The Toledo Museum of Art, Purchased with Funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey
|Ter Borch often repeated figures from one painting to another. Both The Music Lesson and The Music Party contain nearly identical images of a young woman holding a French lute as she reaches to turn a page of sheet music. This instrument probably belonged to the artist or a member of his family, as it appears in several of his paintings. The woman and her lute-playing teacher are engaged in a musical duet, implying that their hearts are also attuned to each other. Listen to two selections of seventeenth-century Dutch music composed for two lutes.
Music: A Lark has Died and The Angry Horse from the Lute Book of Johan Thysius (1621 - 1653); performed by Camerata Trajectina, Pickled Herring, Music from the time of Frans Hals, 2003 (MP3 544k and 1.1MB) Audio help
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