Pieter de Hooch excelled in the sensitive depiction of people going about their daily lives, be it inside their houses or in the sheltered environment of an urban courtyard. His masterly control of light, color, and complex perspectival construction can be compared to the work of Johannes Vermeer, his contemporary and colleague in Delft.
Through his careful arrangement of the interior space in The Bedroom and his treatment of light, De Hooch infused this everyday scene with an extraordinary intimacy and warmth. Two light sources—the double windows on the left plus the open Dutch door and transom at the front of the house—illuminate the child who opens the door to the inner room. The doorway is flanked by rows of glazed Dutch tiles depicting popular children’s games. Based on the dress, the youngster could be either a girl or a boy. All small children wore skirts, regardless of gender, and the age at which a boy would change to wearing breeches was rather fluid. It is possible that De Hooch depicted his own family: his wife, Jannetje, and either his son, Peter, born in 1655, or his daughter, Anna, born in 1656.
The painting’s traditional title of The Bedroom is somewhat misleading, for the box bed against the wall was part of a large multifunctional room. The mother, busy tending to the chamber pot and airing out the linens, prepares the room for its daytime uses. The harmonious character of De Hooch’s painting and its emphasis on the mother’s dual responsibility as nurturer of her child and caretaker of the home, embody the ideal of Dutch domestic felicity.
De Hooch painted this intimate scene of domestic life around 1658 to 1660, during the last years of his Delft period. The painting depicts an everyday occurrence, in which a child opens a door to an inner room, where its mother, busy with her household chores, airs out the bedcovers. The scene, however, is instilled with a sense of intimacy and warmth that transcends the mundane subject matter.
De Hooch achieved this effect through his treatment of light and his sensitive arrangement of the interior space. Light enters the room from two sources: the double windows on the left and the open door and window at the front of the house. As the light streams through the child’s hair, it illuminates the youngster with a palpable, radiant glow. It also enlivens the interior space in the way it plays across a variety of surfaces. De Hooch suggests, for example, the different character of light as it passes through an exterior window, through an interior window, and through both an exterior and interior window. He deftly differentiates between the sheen of reflections off the marble floor and the more spectacular highlights on the orange tile floor. He also captures the nuances of tone in the shadows, which vary because of the multiple light sources.
The extreme naturalism of these optical effects suggests that De Hooch painted this scene, or at least the room, from life. The same room is found in two similar but independent works, A Woman Delousing a Child’s Hair
Another version of this painting, signed with a monogram, is in the Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe. The only difference between the two is that the mirror on the wall between the figures has ornaments on its top and bottom in the Karlsruhe version that do not appear here. In 1929 Valentiner wrote that the Washington version is an autograph replica of the Karlsruhe painting.
Wilhelm R. Valentiner, Pieter de Hooch: The Master’s Paintings, trans. Alice M. Sharkey and E. Schwandt (London and New York, 1930), no. 59.
Peter Sutton, Pieter de Hooch: Complete Edition with a Catalogue Raisonné (Oxford, 1980), 87.
A photographic or digital image analysis method that visually records an object's ability to absorb or transmit x-rays. The differential absorption pattern is useful for examining an object's internal structure as well as for comparing the variation in pigment types.
An alteration made by the artist to an area that was already painted.
Aside from these two versions, a third version was tentatively listed by Sutton as an autograph and it was auctioned in New York on February 29, 1956, no. 17, repro. The large number of copies of the composition that Sutton lists further attests to its popularity (see Peter Sutton, Pieter de Hooch: Complete Edition with a Catalogue Raisonné [Oxford, 1980], 87–88).
Bode sought to identify the woman, who reappears in a number of De Hooch’s paintings, as the artist’s wife, Jannetje van der Burch, and the child as one of their own.
Wilhelm von Bode, Rembrandt und seine Zeitgenossen.... (Leipzig, 1906), 58.
For the difficulty of using a costume to determine a young child’s gender, see J. B. Bedaux and Rudi Ekkart, Pride and Joy: Children's Portraits in the Netherlands, 1500–1700 (Amsterdam, 2000), 78–82. De Hooch’s eldest son, Peter, was baptized on February 2, 1655, and a daughter, Anna, was baptized on November 14, 1656. Ben P. J. Broos et al., Great Dutch Paintings from America (The Hague and Zwolle, 1990), 303, assumes that the child is a boy and postulates that it may represent Peter.
For the history of kolf, see Sten J. H. Van Hengel, Early Golf (Vaduz, 1985). Although most depictions of kolf players represent boys and men, the game was enjoyed by all. For a portrait of a girl holding a kolf stick and ball, see Sten J. H. Van Hengel, Early Golf (Vaduz, 1985), 29, fig. 16.
As Broos has emphasized, the traditional title of this painting, The Bedroom, is slightly misleading, for it suggests that Dutch homes had rooms with separate functions.
Ben P. J. Broos et al., Great Dutch Paintings from America (The Hague and Zwolle, 1990), 304.
Ben P. J. Broos et al., Great Dutch Paintings from America (The Hague and Zwolle, 1990), 304.
The harmonious character of the scene and the emphasis on the mother’s dual responsibilities of child nurturing and caring for the home embody an ideal of Dutch domestic felicity that is nowhere better represented than in the paintings of Pieter de Hooch. These ideals, which had by mid-century been well formulated in the writings of Jacob Cats,
An extremely important and influential expression of Cats’ ideal of family existence is found in his Houwelyck, dat is, de gantsche gheleghentheydt des echten-staets (Middelburg, 1625). For a particularly insightful quotation from this poetic treatise, see Peter Sutton, Pieter de Hooch: Complete Edition with a Catalogue Raisonné (Oxford, 1980), 46.
See Peter Sutton, Pieter de Hooch: Complete Edition with a Catalogue Raisonné (Oxford, 1980), 47–48.
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.
April 24, 2014
Possibly S.J. Stinstra collection, Amsterdam; possibly (sale, S.J. Stinstra, Amsterdam, 1822, no. 86). William Waldegrave, Lord Radstock [1753-1825], Longford Castle, Wiltshire, and Coleshill, Berkshire; (sale, Christie's, 12-13 May 1826, no. 14); George Granville Leveson-Gower, 2nd marquess of Stafford and 1st duke of Sutherland [1783-1833], Stafford House, London; by inheritance to his son, George Granville Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 2nd duke of Sutherland [1786-1861], Stafford House; (Emery Rutley, London), in 1846; Morant. Robert Field, London; (sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 6 June 1856, no. 520). Charles Scarisbrick [d. 1860], Scarisbrick Hall, Lancashire; (his sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 10 May 1861, no. 119); (Francis Nieuwenhuys, London); Adrian John Hope [1811-1863], London; (his estate sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 30 June 1894, no. 32); (Charles J. Wertheimer, London and Paris); (Charles Sedelmeyer, Paris); sold 30 July 1894 to Peter A.B. Widener, Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; gift 1942 to NGA.
- The Hudson-Fulton Celebration, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1909, no. 55.
- Great Dutch Paintings from America, Mauritshuis, The Hague; The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, 1990-1991, no. 35, color repro., as The Box Bed.
- Pieter de Hooch, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London; Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, 1998-1999, no. 21, repro.
- Johannes Vermeer: The Art of Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1999-2000, not in brochure.
- The Public and the Private in the Age of Vermeer, Osaka Municipal Museum of Art, 2000, no. 23, repro.
- Vermeer y el interior holandés, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2003, no. 12, repro.
- Loan for display with permanent collection, Gemeente Musea / Stedelijk Museum het Prinsenhof, Delft, 2009.
- Vermeer: Il secolo d'oro dell'arte olandese, Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome, 2012-2013, no. 28, repro.
The original support, a medium-weight, plain-weave fabric  has been lined with the tacking margins trimmed. Cusping appears along the top, right, and bottom edges but not on the left edge. Paint is applied over a smooth white ground in thin layers followed by thin glazes and scumbles. Lining has flattened the impasted highlights. The paint is in good condition with no abrasion and losses confined to the edges. Discolored varnish was removed when conservation treatment was carried out in 1982.
 Average densities of 11.1 threads per centimeter horizontally and 11.6 threads per centimeter vertically were measured by the Thread Count Automation Project of Cornell University and Rice University (see report dated May 2010 in Conservation department files).
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- household management
- cleaning +used symbolically