Dutch seventeenth-century artists drew their subject matter from all elements of society. The refinement of the wealthy burghers in the second half of the century was best captured by Gerard ter Borch the Younger. His exquisite painting technique, which consisted of delicate touches with the brush and the use of thin glazes to suggest transparencies, allowed him to create realistic textural effects, whether of lace, satin, or the pile of an oriental tablecloth. His pictures’ calm moods and brilliant renditions of fabrics set a precedent for later painters such as Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675) and Gabriel Metsu (1629–1667).

In this painting, an elegant gentleman bows gracefully as he enters the room. A young woman wearing a beautiful satin dress with an orange-red jacket stands to greet him while another woman plays a theorbo, a type of lute, at the table. Behind them a man warms his hands at the fireplace. The clothes, instruments, imposing mantelpiece, and gilded wallpaper all attest to the prosperity of the people. Ter Borch focused on the psychological interaction between the suitor and the standing woman, who communicate through glances and gestures.

Contemporary viewers would have greatly admired Ter Borch’s remarkable ability to render satins in _The Suitor’s Visit, _but they would also have been intrigued by the painting's subject matter. Does this scene depict an innocent social call, or does the graceful lady answering the door invite her suitor in for a sexual encounter? The answer is not easy to discern because the artist delighted in capturing the ambivalence of human relationships through his carefully considered renderings of gazes and gesture.


  • Title: The Suitor's Visit
  • Creator: Gerard ter Borch the Younger
  • Date Created: c. 1658
  • Physical Dimensions: overall: 80 x 75 cm (31 1/2 x 29 1/2 in.) framed: 110.8 x 106 x 12.7 cm (43 5/8 x 41 3/4 x 5 in.)
  • Provenance: Charles-Auguste-Louis-Joseph, duc de Morny [1811-1865], Paris; (his estate sale, at the Palais de la Présidence du Corps Législatif, Paris, 31 May-12 June 1865, no. 82); Josè Salamanca y Mayol [Marquès de Salamanca, d. 1866], Madrid; (sale, at his residence by Charles Pillet, Paris, 3-6 June 1867, no. 126); Baron Adolphe de Rothschild [1823-1900], Paris; by inheritance to his first cousin once-removed, Baron Maurice de Rothschild [1881-1957], Paris; (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris); sold July 1922 to Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.; deeded 28 December 1934 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1937 to NGA.
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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