Artist: Bartholomeus van der Helst (Dutch, Haarlem, born ca. 1612–15, died 1670 Amsterdam)
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 54 1/2 x 43 3/4 in. (138.4 x 111.1 cm)
Credit Line: Purchase, 1873
Accession Number: 73.2
In style and execution this painting is a typical work of Van der Helst’s mature years, and it is reliably signed and dated 1662. The woman tunes a theorbo-lute, and a viola da gamba lies in front of her. Printed music in tenor and soprano parts rests on a carpet-covered table nearby. By her direct gaze, the woman seems to address a male viewer, inviting him to take up the gamba and join her in a duet.
Although usually treated in later scholarly literature as a genre scene, Liedtke (2009) raises the possibility that it may be a portrait of the artist's wife, Anna du Pire.
The composition was etched by Jules Jacquemart (see Decamps 1872).
[2010; adapted from Liedtke 2007]