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The man represented in this painting is immortalized in the act of tamping his pipe in a window that is bracketed by vines, bearing ripe grapes; to his left, there is a bottle of wine, a silver tobacco box and a shell, resting on the window sill. Man with pipe is part of a longer series of portraits that have the common feature of the sitter presented at the window: An Old Fiddler (1660), A Boy Blowing Bubbles (1663), Self Portrait of the Artist, with a Cittern (1674); this type of portrait finds its best example in Allegory (1670 – 1680), where the representation of the woman in the window is used for the full display of a number of symbolic objects. The painting in the Brukenthal Art Gallery also carries a number of symbolic features. The positioning of the man, between the vines, with one tendril pointing at him and the group of objects on the window sill, brings to mind that vine is generally a symbol of life and Christian living, whereas in 17th century Dutch painting, scenes containing characters drinking wine usually carry a connotation of debauchery. One is tempted to see here a pictorial metaphor of the human condition, alternating between the call of spiritual life and the temptation to sample the new forms of pleasure (shells, in the Dutch painting of the epoch, symbolized the new geographic discoveries, with their exotic lure and attending riches, but they were also a symbol of lust). The lower tract bears the year MDCLVIII (1658). ©Dana Roxana Hrib, European Art Gallery Guidebook, Second edition, Sibiu 2011.

Details

  • Title: Man with pipe at the Window
  • Creator: Frans van Mieris the Elder
  • Date: 1658
  • Physical Dimensions: w15.7 x h19.8 cm (Without frame)
  • Photo copyright: ©Christof Weber
  • Collecting: Brukenthal National Museum, Sibiu, Romania
  • Artist Biography: Born into a family of goldsmiths of Leiden, Frans van Mieris the Elder was apprenticed to Gerrit Dou, who called him “a prince among my students”. Later on, Abraham van den Tempel taught him the art of rendering the texture of various fabrics and materials. He spent his entire life in his native town, where he died covered with honours and was buried in the Church of Saint Peter, the traditional resting place of the town elite. Although his contemporaries considered him one of the most important figures of 17th century Dutch painting, interest in his art took a considerable decline in the 18th century. Throughout his career, he numbered among his patrons the Archduke Leopold and Cosimo III de’Medici. ©Dana Roxana Hrib, European Art Gallery Guidebook, Second edition, Sibiu 2011.
  • Provenance: Brukenthal National Museum
  • Type: painting
  • Medium: oil on wood

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