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Images of young women being plied with wine were common in seventeenth-century Dutch art and there was usually a certain frisson about the scene. Wine was considered an aphrodisiac and the suggestion behind an image like this might be that the woman was working as a prostitute or that her virtue was in danger. In this case she seems to be waving the glass away; nevertheless, the expression on her face is one of faint amusement rather than steely resolution.
The style and subject matter of the painting are typical of artists working in Delft in the mid-seventeenth century, but the picture is unsigned and the attribution to Ludolph de Jongh, a Rotterdam painter who travelled a good deal, remains only tentative. Some unusual methods have been employed to capture the effect of light reflecting off different surfaces, including the use of gold leaf in parts of the background.
Images of young women being plied with wine were common in seventeenth-century Dutch art and there was usually a certain frisson about the scene. Wine was considered an aphrodisiac, and the suggestion behind an image like this might be that the woman was working as a prostitute or that her virtue was in danger of being corrupted. In this case, although she is under some pressure to drink, she seems to be waving the glass away. Nevertheless, her expression is one of faint amusement rather than steely resolution.
The man who studies his reflection in the mirror doesn't seem to be part of this narrative, and is strangely detached from the activity in the foreground. But he does draw our attention to another theme in this painting: the artist’s interest in reflections and the way that light plays on different surfaces. As well as the image in the mirror, the painter paid great attention to how the polished surface of the marble floor picks up the glow from the woman’s pink dress and the burnished fire dog. The way the sunshine catches the wine glasses, the hilt of the man’s sword, the door handle in the left foreground and the ceramic vases and silk curtains in the background is also carefully portrayed.
Some of these effects were achieved in an unusual way. Gold leaf has been used for the highlights in the fire-dog (which is decorated with seahorses) and in parts of the gilt leather wall hanging to the left of the fireplace. The black and white floor tiles help create a sense of depth and space, and while this was a typical technique in this type of painting, it was usually done with highly regular geometric patterns. Here, the black and white marble does not seem to form a regular design.
The picture above the fireplace seems to be based on figures and elements taken from a print by Antonio Tempesta, Abraham liberating his Nephew Lot, one of a series of Old Testament battle scenes which were published in 1613. However, it doesn’t seem to have any particular significance to the other themes of the painting.
The picture is unsigned and it has been attributed to at least 12 different artists, most of whom were working in Delft around 1655 to 1670. For example, it is comparable with the paintings of interiors made by Vermeer and de Hooch and can be related to experiments with perspective associated with Fabritius. However, these attributions have not proved convincing, and most recently Ludolf de Jongh has been suggested. He was a Rotterdam painter who travelled a good deal and spent some of his apprenticeship in Delft. However, that was in the 1630s, before Vermeer, de Hooch and Fabritius were working, and the attribution to de Jongh remains only tentative.
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