A Young Woman playing a Harpsichord to a Young Man

In contrast to Steen's characteristic scenes of dissolute households and festive abandon, this painting shows an interior within a stone arch in the manner of Dou and the Leiden 'fijnschilders' (Fine Painters). A girl playing the virginals, or as here, a harpsichord, was one of the most popular subjects with Dutch 17th-century painters, and as in Metsu's roughly contemporary painting, 'A Man and a Woman seated by a Virginal' in the National Gallery, the instrument is inscribed with popular quotations from the Bible. The inscription reads: ACTA VIRUM / PROBANT (actions prove the man), which may be a witty and ironic comment on this scene of rather passive flirtation. On the inner side of the instrument one can read: 'Soli Deo Gloria' (Glory to God alone).

The picture was probably painted in 1659.

Key facts

Artist dates
1626 - 1679
Full title
A Young Woman playing a Harpsichord to a Young Man
Date made
probably 1659
Medium and support
Oil on oak
42.3 x 33 cm
Inscription summary
Signed; Dated and inscribed
Acquisition credit
Bought, 1871
Inventory number
Location in Gallery