A woman playing the virginal turns to look at a dog. A girl sits in the back room. Her broom rests against a chest while she pauses from her work. The virginal closely resembles a number of extant instruments made by the Ruckers family of Antwerp, who had clients in both the Southern and the Northern Netherlands. The Latin inscriptions on the lid and cover of the virginal are quotations from two psalms exhorting the reader to praise God with musical instruments. The suggestion that Metsu included them here to give the painting a deeper, possibly amorous, meaning is unlikely. Virginals were in fact decorated with biblical texts of this kind. The painting was made a few years earlier than Emanuel de Witte’s version of the same subject. Both artists lived in Amsterdam and it is possible that De Witte had seen the Metsu. The fall of light in Metsu’s painting is less contrasted and more even than in De Witte’s version. The illumination of the broom, the chest and the floor is particularly effective. The wall of a house can be seen through the window. Rendered only in squares and rectangles, it looks like an abstract composition.


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