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Frans van Mieris and his teacher Gerrit Dou were the most prominent proponents of the so-called “fine paintings” created in Leiden. The characteristic features of these genre scenes were their small format, great detail and the fact that they were sometimes painted on gilt copper. Mieris’s works were sold during his lifetime at remarkably high prices that made them less than easily affordable, even for such wealthy buyers as Archduke Leopold Wilhelm. The painter has used powerful illumination to create an interior that is readily comprehensible to the viewer. Every surface is depicted with great care and sensitivity, and the brushstrokes are no longer visible. The viewer is witness to asales talk that, at the same time, is also an erotic encounter between a man and a woman. An apparently affluent customer is assessing the quality of the fabric laid out before him (in the background on the left are the other goods, stackedneatly on shelves). At the same time he touches the delicate chin of his interlocutor, gazing at her approvingly. This comparison is certainly intended to be ambiguous. Mieris has provided a hidden written message: in the folds of the carpet on the table in the right foreground is a silver band with the word “comparare”, which has several meanings in Latin, including “to buy” and “to compare”. It remains open which of the goods will find a buyer here: the precious fabric or the woman’s love. An old man crouches beneath the fireplace mantle along the back wall. Perhaps his concerned facial expression is intended to be the painter’s admonishing reference to the kind of business that is about tobe concluded: but does the old man view the proceedings as immoral or is he perhaps a procurer?
© Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010

Details

  • Title: Cavalier in the Shop
  • Creator: Franz van Mieris the Elder
  • Date Created: 1660
  • Style: Dutch
  • Provenance: bought 1660 by Archduke Leopold Wilhelm
  • Physical Dimensions: w427 x h545 cm
  • Inventory Number: GG 586
  • Artist Biography: Frans van Mieris the Elder belonged to an illustrious family of goldsmiths and painters. After an apprenticeship with his cousin, Van Mieris studied painting with Gerrit Dou, the first and most famous member of the fijnschilders (fine painters) in his native Leiden. Dou called him the "Prince of my Pupils." In the style of the fijnschilders - minutely proportioned subjects with bright colors, a shiny finish, and precise attention to detail - Van Mieris painted on wood or copper panels rarely larger than fifteen square inches. He represented common incidents in the lives of the working class as well as the habits and customs of the wealthy. His paintings were highly acclaimed in his lifetime and earned Van Mieris a great deal of money. Unfortunately, he wasted his fortune through alcoholism and poor management of his finances. Although contemporaries recognized Van Mieris as one of the leading Dutch artists of the 1600s, his paintings fell into relative obscurity in the 1700s. ©J. Paul Getty Trust
  • Type: paintings
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/en/collections/picture-gallery
  • Medium: Oil on Wood

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