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A Woman Asleep by a Fire
Quiringh van Brekelenkam
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There are lots of examples in Dutch seventeenth-century painting of artists using images of sleeping women for satirical purposes – to emphasise neglect of their moral duties. That is not the case here. Van Brekelenkam was more concerned with paying homage to diligent housekeepers: this woman has clearly not fallen asleep through drunkeness, laziness or neglect but because she is tired from work. Her kitchen is neat and ordered and she has laid out supper on a neatly pressed linen cloth. Her domestic chores done, she has nodded off while studying the Bible.

One slightly jarring note is hinted at, however. The relief on the stoneware jug shows Adam and Eve standing before God in the Garden of Eden. It is a reminder that, according to the Bible, it was a woman, Eve, who first disobeyed God and brought shame and sin into the world.

Key facts
Artist Quiringh van Brekelenkam
Artist dates active 1644; died 1668
Full title A Woman Asleep by a Fire
Date made about 1648
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 43.7 x 32.8 cm
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2550
Location in Gallery Not on display
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