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Gabriel Metsu, 'A Young Woman seated drawing', about 1655-60

Key facts
Full title A Young Woman seated drawing
Artist Gabriel Metsu
Artist dates 1629 - 1667
Date made about 1655-60
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 36.3 × 30.7 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by the 1st Viscount Rothermere, 1940
Inventory number NG5225
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Young Woman seated drawing
Gabriel Metsu

This woman is engrossed in sketching a stone bust; hanging over the edge of the table is an engraving. Copying sculpture and images such as this was part of an artist’s training. In the background we can see an easel, as well as books, a globe and a classical arch and column, which evoke a wider world of learning and intellectual enquiry.

Images of women quietly absorbed in their work were particularly popular at the time – often they were maids or women of modest means doing domestic chores. But while a few women did work as artists, this room is too grand to be a painter’s studio, and the woman is expensively dressed. So this image goes beyond a simple lesson on the virtues considered ideal for women. It elevates artistic practice by stressing its intellectual context and also, by inference, it confirms the status of women as artists.

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