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.
The old town wall of Delft forms the rear wall of a courtyard in which a maidservant, carrying a jug and a laundry basket, and a small child holding a birdcage make their way to the water pump. A woman and two men enjoy some red wine in the classically inspired arbor against the back wall. The same arbor, wall, and steps occur in two other De Hooch paintings, but the variations in composition confirm that the artist freely altered the architectural elements. It is unlikely that the courtyard scenes represent an actual location, but they are clearly based on views from the backyards of the houses on the west side of the Oude Gracht in Delft where De Hooch and his family are thought to have resided.
Near the old town wall of Delft, the site of many of De Hooch’s courtyard paintings, two gentlemen and a woman are seated in a small wooden arbor, drinking wine. A maidservant carrying an earthenware jug and a basket, covered with a white cloth, and a little girl holding a birdcage cross the courtyard on their way toward a water pump that is attached to the house on the left. The two sets of steps seen through the open doors behind them seem to lead to the city ramparts.
This idyllic view of city life with spacious courtyards, trees, and vines contains compositional elements that are found in two other of De Hooch’s paintings of this period. The arbor, the wall, and the steps leading to the door in the wall form the setting for his painting A Family in a Courtyard, 1658–1660, in Vienna
First noted by Neil MacLaren, The Dutch School (London, 1960), 186.
These variations among the works confirm that De Hooch felt free to alter architectural elements for compositional reasons. Technical imaging reveals that he made significant adjustments to features in the present work through successive layers of thinly-applied paint (see
Neil MacLaren, The Dutch School (London, 1960), 185.
In this painting, as in other of De Hooch’s courtyard scenes, one senses a harmonious relationship between the serving woman and her employers. Although no commissions for these works are known, one wonders if De Hooch’s interest in the theme stems from his own experiences working as a servant for the linen merchant Justus de la Grange in the early 1650s. De Hooch’s sensitivity to the relationship of women to children may also relate to his own family experiences: a son, born in 1655, and a daughter, born in 1656, would have been approximately the ages of the children he so often represented in his paintings from the end of that decade.
Original entry by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., April 24, 2014.
Revised by Alexandra Libby to incorporate information from a new technical examination.
December 9, 2019
lower left on trough: P D Hooch
(Mssrs. Lawrie & Co., London, 1903); (Arthur J. Sulley & Co., London); (M. Knoedler & Co., London, Paris, and New York, 1904-1905); sold 1905 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. 54.
- Human Connections in the Age of Vermeer, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art; The Miyagi Museum of Art, Sendai; The Bunkamura Museum of Art, Tokyo, 2011-2012, no. 19, repro.
- Vermeer: Il secolo d'oro dell'arte olandese, Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome, 2012-2013, no. 19, repro.
- Vermeer's Little Street Discovered!, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Stedelijk Museum Het Prinsenhof, Delft, 2015-2016, no. 46, repro. (shown only in Delft).
The original support is a medium-weight, plain-weave fabric with an irregular weave pattern.
Earlier technical summaries of this work were prepared by Melissa Katz and Catherine Metzger. Average densities of 11 threads per centimeter horizontally and 13.3 threads per centimeter vertically were measured by the Thread Count Automation Project of Cornell University and Rice University (see report dated May 2010 in NGA conservation department files).
The canvas was prepared with a three-layered ground. The two lower layers are warm tan in color, and the uppermost layer is a cooler tan, containing small black particles. Many of the forms within the composition were blocked out with a semitransparent, medium-rich, monochromatic layer that varies from brown to brown-black in color. A thin brown painted line, similar in color to the blocking-out layer, can be seen along the edges of the trees in the bottom right corner of the composition, as well as delineating the shape of the house on the left side of the painting. These visible traces are part of a painted sketch of the composition. The ground, blocking-out layer, and painted sketch are visible throughout and integral to the final composition, used as a highlight, mid-tone, or even shadow in modeling form. Finally, throughout the composition there are a number of incised lines that follow painted forms, mainly the architectural elements. Paint layers were built up thinly on top of the ground or blocking-out layer, with minimal modeling and paint layering. Final highlights are thoughtfully placed small dots and dabs of paint.
Overall, the painting is in good condition. It was treated in 2015–2016, and grime and thick layers of discolored varnish and overpaint were removed. The painting was revarnished and inpainted with stable and reversible materials. During the same treatment, cross-section analysis, scanning electron energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy, x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, and multispectral infrared reflectography (MS-IRR) were performed in order to better understand the painting technique and materials.
The pigments and ground were analyzed by the NGA scientific research department (see NGA conservation department files).
Multispectral infrared reflectography: composite of three registered infrared images, in wavelength bands 1100–1400 nm (blue), 1500–1800 nm (green), and 2100–2400 nm (red). Courtesy of John Delaney, Kate Dooley, and Giorgio Trumpy, scientific research department, National Gallery of Art, Washington.
Dina Anchin, based on the examination report by Carol Christenson and science reports by Michael Palmer.
December 9, 2019
- Armstrong, Sir Walter. The Peel Collection and the Dutch School of Painting. London, 1904: 43.
- Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. 8 vols. Translated by Edward G. Hawke. London, 1907-1927: 1(1907):558-559, no. 294.
- Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Catalogue of a collection of paintings by Dutch masters of the seventeenth century. The Hudson-Fulton Celebration 1. Exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1909: 55, no. 54, repro., 154, 161.
- Cox, Kenyon. "Art in America, Dutch Paintings in the Hudson-Fulton Exhibition III." The Burlington Magazine 16, no. 83 (February 1910): 305.
- Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Catalogue of a Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Old Dutch Masters Held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Connection with the Hudson-Fulton Celebration. New York, 1910: repro. 198, 199, no. 54.
- Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis, and Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Pictures in the collection of P. A. B. Widener at Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania: Early German, Dutch & Flemish Schools. Philadelphia, 1913: unpaginated, repro.
- Rudder, Arthur de. Pieter de Hooch et son oeuvre. Collection des grands artistes des Pays-Bas. Brussels and Paris, 1914: 100.
- Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1923: unpaginated, repro.
- Collins Baker, Charles Henry. Pieter de Hooch. Masters of Painting. London, 1925: 4-5.
- Valentiner, Wilhelm R. "Pieter de Hooch, Part I". Art in America 15, no. 1 (December 1926): 49 fig. 3, 57, 58, 61.
- Brière-Misme, Clotilde. "Tableaux inédits ou peu connus de Pieter de Hooch, Part II." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 69, no. 16 (July-August 1927): 70.
- Valentiner, Wilhelm R. "Pieter de Hooch, Part II." Art in America 15, no. 2 (February 1927): 76, no. 13.
- Valentiner, Wilhelm R. "Pieter de Hooch: des meisters gemälde in 180 abbildungen mit einem anhang über di genremaler um Pieter de Hooch und die kunst Hendrik van der Burchs." Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 35 (1929): 39, repro. 271 (also 1930 English ed., translated by Alice M. Sharkey and E. Schwandt, London and New York).
- Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Pieter de Hooch: The Master’s Paintings. Translated by Alice M. Sharkey and E. Schwandt. London and New York, 1930: 39, repro. 271.
- Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1931: 90, repro.
- Tietze, Hans. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935: 184, 337, repro.
- Tietze, Hans. Masterpieces of European Painting in America. New York, 1939: no. 184, repro.
- National Gallery of Art. Works of art from the Widener collection. Washington, 1942: 5.
- Thienen, Frithjof van. Pieter de Hooch. Palet. Amsterdam, 1945: 20, 29-30, fig. 17.
- National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. Washington, 1948 (reprinted 1959): 62, repro.
- National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. Reprint. Washington, DC, 1959:
- MacLaren, Neil. The Dutch School. Text. National Gallery Catalogues. London, 1960: 186.
- National Gallery of Art. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1965: 69.
- National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 61, repro.
- National Gallery of Art. European paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Washington, 1975: 178, repro.
- Sutton, Peter C. Pieter de Hooch: Complete Edition with a Catalogue Raisonné. Oxford, 1980: 25, 63 n. 45, 86, no. 39, repro. no. 42.
- National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 206, repro.
- Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Washington and Grand Rapids, 1986: 310-311, repro.
- Langer, Cassandra L. Mother & Child in Art. New York, 1992: 102-103, repro.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 136-139, color repro. 137.
- Kersten, Michiel C.C., and Daniëlle H.A.C. Lokin. Delft masters, Vermeer's contemporaries: illusionism through the conquest of light and space. Exh. cat. Stedelijk Museum Het Prinsenhof, Delft. Zwolle, 1996: 114, fig. 100.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr., and Daniëlle H.A.C. Lokin. Communication: Visualizing the Human Connection in the Age of Vermeer. Japanese ed. Exh. cat. Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art; Miyagi Museum of Art, Sendai; Bunkamura Museum of Art, Tokyo. Tokyo, 2011: 106-107, no. 16, repro.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr., and Daniëlle H.A.C. Lokin. Human Connections in the Age of Vermeer. Exh. cat. Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art; Miyagi Museum of Art, Sendai; Bunkamura Museum of Art, Tokyo. London, 2011: no. 19, 80-81, repro.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr., Walter A. Liedtke, and Sandrina Bandera Bistoletti. Vermeer: il secolo d'oro dell'arte olandese. Exh. cat. Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome. Milan, 2012: 142-143, no. 19, color repro.
- bird in a cage
- wine ~ alcoholic drinks
- household management
- historical person +Justus de la Grange