A Real Treat

The Spanish Brothel

The Spanish Brothel (1545) by Jan Cornelisz. VermeyenMuseum Boijmans Van Beuningen

In 1535 Vermeyen went to Spain, and this is probably where he got the inspiration for this print, ‘The Spanish Brothel’.

The atmosphere is cordial. Two women are dancing in the background.

One of them has even exposed her breasts already.

The dancers are being accompanied at the table by their colleagues playing some kind of ‘castanets’. The rhythm is created by banging the two wooden shells together.

The man with the peculiarly small head is being seduced by one of the prostitutes.

In the meantime he has not noticed that his purse is being stolen.

The two other men look on in disbelief. They can see that the man is being taken for a ride. An inscription at the bottom of the print sheds further light.

It states 'As Spanish love conjures up the purse by caresses; so the foolish lover seizes false kisses’.

Various delicacies lie on the table. What can you recognize?

The client can nibble small cucumbers and pears. There are what appear to be pieces of marzipan on the ornately decorated plate.

Naturally there is no lack of drink in a brothel. A large beaker stands beside the melon.

An old woman keeps track of the bill. She keeps a sharp eye on the company from the corner.

Vermeyen etched this print. This can be seen in the loose lines that were used to build up the composition.

To make an etching a metal plate is covered with a protective layer of wax and resin. The composition can be quickly and easily scratched into it with an etching needle.

Then the plate is treated with a corrosive solution. Grooves are created in the metal plate where the wax and the resin were scratched off.

Finally the plate is rubbed with ink. The plate is wiped with a cloth and some ink is left in the grooves. It is then ready to print.

In this print Vermeyen exploited to the utmost the irregular and spontaneous lines that can be achieved in an etching.

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