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Proud of the economic success of their new nation, 17th-century Dutch society placed great emphasis on the comforts of home and the virtues of domesticity. Particularly in the second half of the century, there was an appetite for paintings that presented an idealised vision of domestic life. Johannes Vermeer, Pieter de Hooch, and Gerard ter Borch are among the many artists who painted scenes of elegant men and women relaxing, making music, or taking care of household duties.

Some Dutch paintings of everyday life (genre paintings) incorporate moralising themes, such as the critique of vice or the praise of virtue. Others skilfully rendered complex lighting effects and displayed their mastery of illusionism and perspective. Whether Saenredam’s luminous, whitewashed churches, or the succession of light and dark in de Hooch’s homely scenes, Dutch artists excelled in the depiction of interior spaces.