Dutch 17th–century artists drew their subject matter from all elements of society. The artist who best captured the refinement of the wealthy bourgeoisie in the second half of the century was Gerard ter Borch. In this example, 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 sits at a table playing a theorbo, a musical instrument. Behind this group a man warms his hands at a fireplace. The costumes, instruments, imposing mantelpiece, and gilded wallpaper all attest to the high social status of the figures.

Ter Borch's 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 a wool tablecloth. His main focus was the psychological interaction of the two protagonists, the suitor and the standing woman. These two figures are clearly communicating through their glances and gestures. Seen in the context of the musical instruments and dog, both of which have associations of love, their meeting has strong sexual overtones.


  • Title: The Suitor's Visit
  • Date Created: c. 1658
  • Physical Dimensions: w750 x h800 cm (overall)
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Andrew W. Mellon Collection
  • External Link: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • painter: Gerard ter Borch the Younger
  • Theme: genre, courtship
  • School: Dutch
  • 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.

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