Dutch, 1629 - 1667
Gabriel Metsu was born in Leiden sometime between November 27 and mid-December 1629, about eight months after the death of his father, the Flemish painter Jacques Metsue. In 1644, when fifteen-year-old Gabriel Metsu joined a semiformal group of local artists, he entered the membership rolls as a “painter.” Six days after the establishment of Leiden’s Saint Luke’s Guild in 1648, Metsu paid his membership dues as an independent master. With the exception of short absences in the early 1650s, he remained in Leiden until at least 1654, moving to Amsterdam the following year. On April 12, 1658, he married Isabella de Wolff, a relative of the Haarlem classicist painter Pieter de Grebber (c. 1600–1652/1653). In January of the next year, Metsu became an official citizen of Amsterdam, where he died in 1667 at the young age of thirty-eight.
It has often been assumed that Metsu must have studied with
Metsu’s stylistic and thematic adaptability suggests that he understood the changing character of the art market. For example, after he moved to Amsterdam he began to paint genre scenes that featured upper-class domestic situations. He also began to paint with greater detail and with a refinement associated with Leiden masters. In Amsterdam he also responded to the thematic and stylistic innovations of
Metsu’s facile brushwork and his engaging narrative scenes were highly regarded during his own time, but the height of his fame came in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when he was viewed as one of the supreme masters of the Dutch Golden Age. His paintings were sold for enormous sums of money, and, because of Metsu’s fame, no fewer than three of Vermeer’s paintings were atrributed to him, among them the National Gallery’s
In addition to his genre scenes, Metsu painted a few depictions of outdoor markets, religious scenes, portraits, and still lifes. The genre and portrait painter Michiel van Musscher (1645–1705) was his only known pupil.
 Adriaan E. Waiboer, “Gabriel Metsu (1629–1667): Life and Work,” PhD diss. (New York University, 2007), 45–57.
 Adriaan E. Waiboer, “Gabriel Metsu (1629–1667): Life and Work,” PhD diss. (New York University, 2007), 78–90.
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.
April 24, 2014