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Gabriel Metsu, The Interior of a Smithy

Key facts
Full title The Interior of a Smithy
Artist Gabriel Metsu
Artist dates 1629 - 1667
Date made about 1657
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 65.4 × 73.3 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2591
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Interior of a Smithy
Gabriel Metsu

From the world of outdoors, a horseman – dashing, smart and confident – has stepped into the gloomy interior of a blacksmith’s shop. He strikes a superior pose and his status is underlined by his expensive scarlet coat, its gold braid and the hilt of his sword glittering in the dim light. While the horseman stands upright and aloof, the blacksmith, in a simple apron and shirt, bends to his task. His hammer is ready to strike the red-hot iron of a horseshoe.

Scenes of tradesman at their work, like this one, were popular. Metsu seems to have found particular success in depicting blacksmith shops – this is one of several which he made around this time. His success depended partly on very precise observation and the meticulous painting of detail. Here we see the blacksmith’s tongs, pliers, hammers and punches on their racks above the forge, and glow of the hot iron.

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