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Caspar Netscher, A Lady teaching a Child to Read

Key facts
Full title A Lady teaching a Child to read, and a Child playing with a Dog ('La Maîtresse d'école')
Artist Caspar Netscher
Artist dates 1635/6 - 1684
Date made probably 1670s
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 45.1 × 37 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1871
Inventory number NG844
Location Room 16
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Lady teaching a Child to Read
Caspar Netscher

At first glance, Caspar Netscher shows two delightful children, both busy. The girl is learning to read while the boy plays with the dog, his toys, including a top, thrown down on the floor.

There may be moral in the painting, though it was more likely to have been bought for amusement. In a popular emblem book of the time is a picture of a top with a hand over it, wielding a whip. The motto in the book reads: ‘The further the rod from the backside, the lazier they grow in the service of God.’

It doesn‘t appear that any whips have been wielded anywhere near the little boy’s backside and his happy expression suggests they’re unlikely to be so. The picture above all shows a charming scene, beautifully painted by Netscher’s expert hand.

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