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Samuel van Hoogstraten: 'A Peepshow with Views of the Interior of a Dutch House'

The peepshow is a rectangular box; the interior is painted on three sides, as well as on the top and bottom. The sixth side is open; originally light would have entered the box from this side, perhaps through specially treated paper stretched across it. The box would have been placed close to a window or illumination provided by a candle. There are peep-holes in the two shorter sides which provide the illusion of three-dimensional views of the interior of a house.

Hoogstraten's box is an unusually elaborate example, decorated on the exterior with allegorical paintings which correspond to chapters in a theoretical book that the artist was to write later. The long side illustrates love of wealth as a motivation for the artist, who appears with a putto holding a cornucopia. Love of art and of fame are the subjects of the paintings on the short sides, while the top is decorated with an allegory of physical love, representing Venus and Cupid in bed, painted in anamorphic (distorted perspective) projection.

The box was probably painted in Dordrecht in the later 1650s. A number of such peepshows were made in Holland but only a few examples have survived. This is one of the finest. The stand is modern.

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