A Young Woman Chopping Onions, 1724
Louis de Surugue (French, ca. 1686–1762), after Gerrit Dou (Dutch, 1613–1675)
Engraving; sheet 12 1/16 x 8 3/4 in. (30.7 x 22.3 cm); plate 10 13/16 x 7 1/2 in. (27.5 x 19 cm)
Gift of Georgina W. Sargent, in memory of John Osborne Sargent, 1924 (24.63.1656)
The print reproduces (in reverse) Dou's small panel, dated 1646, in Buckingham Palace. Along with the young woman's glance, several motifs tease the viewer. The bird and the open jug symbolize male and female forms, which join together in a manner demonstrated by the mortar and pestle (next to an erect candlestick). The empty birdcage implies that virtue has flown the coop. Onions have been considered aphrodisiacs since ancient times. The French verse captures the spirit of Dou's picture by speaking for the viewer, who tells the kitchen maid that, although she surely knows how to make a tempting ragout, his appetite is for her.