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Gerard ter Borch

A Lady at Her Toilet, c. 1660, oil on canvas, 30 x 23 1/2 in., The Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase, Eleanor Clay Ford Fund, General Membership Fund, Endowment Income Fund and Special Activities Fund

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Procession with Flagellants, c. 1636/1640, oil on panel, 16 5/16 x 28 1/8 in., Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam

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Caspar van Kinschot, 1646/1647, oil on copper, 4 5/6 x 3 1/8 in., Private collection, on long-term loan to the Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis, The Hague

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The Swearing of the Oath of Ratification of the Treaty of Münster, 15 May 1648, 1648, oil on copper, 17 7/8 x 23 1/16 in., The National Gallery, London

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A Young Woman at Her Toilet with a Maid, c. 1650/1651, oil on wood, 18 3/4 x 13 5/8 in., Lent by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917

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The Grinder’s Family, c. 1653, oil on canvas, 28 15/16 x 23 15/16 in., Staatliche Museen Zu Berlin-Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Gemäldegalerie

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A Maid Milking a Cow in a Barn, c. 1653/1654, oil on panel, 18 11/16 x 19 3/4 in., The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Gallant Conversation (known as Paternal Admonition), c. 1654, oil on canvas, 27 15/16 x 28 3/4 in., Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

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A man bows to a woman as another man looks on from the shadowy background, while a woman sitting at a table plays a lute in this vertical painting. All the people have pale skin. The bowing man enters from an open door to our left. He faces our right in profile and has a bumped nose, a dark mustache, and his brown hair falls loosely over his shoulders. He wears a voluminous, black jacket that has a wide white collar and flat, plate-like, starched white cuffs. He bends forward with one foot stretched in front of him, as he gazes at the woman to our right. His hands are spread wide. His left forefinger and thumb touch to make an O shape, and he holds a wide-brimmed, black hat in his right hand, closer to us. At the center of the composition, the woman wears a dress with a coral-pink bodice and a cream-white satin skirt trimmed with gold down the front and around the hem. She faces our left in profile and looks at the man, her cheeks flushed. Her eyebrows are slightly raised over dark eyes, and she has a straight nose and the hint of a double chin. Her blond hair is pulled back under a lace covering, and curls frame her face. A black ribbon is tied into a bow at the shoulder closer to us. A brown and white dog, about knee-high, stands between the man and woman. To our right, a young woman sits at the far side of a table playing a lute. She wears a sapphire-blue dress and looks down at her instrument. One elbow is propped on the patterned rug that covers the table. A second instrument, perhaps a cello, lies on the table, and a wooden chair with a pine-green upholstered seat has been pulled up to our side of the table. Almost lost in the shadows at the back of the room between the two women, a man with a goatee and wearing a brown jacket and trousers stands with his body angled to our right as he looks over his shoulder at the couple at the door. He stands in front of a fireplace with an opening so large that the mantle is supported by columns as tall as the man.

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 Suitor's Visit, c. 1658, oil on canvas, 31 1/2 x 29 1/2 in., Andrew W. Mellon Collection, 1937.1.58

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Officer Writing a Letter, c. 1658/1659, oil on canvas, 21 5/8 x 18 15/16 in., Philadelphia Museum of Art, The William L. Elkins Collection, 1924

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Portrait of a Young Man, c. 1663, oil on canvas, 26 1/2 x 21 3/8 in., The National Gallery, London

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Portrait of a Young Woman, c. 1663, oil on canvas, 24 15/16 x 20 3/4 in., The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Collection

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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

The Music Lesson, c. 1668/1669, oil on panel, 22 7/8 x 18 5/8 in., The Toledo Museum of Art, Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey

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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 Party, c. 1668/1670, oil on panel, 22 7/8 x 18 5/8 in., Cincinnati Art Museum, Bequest of Mary M. Emery

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