Quirin Gerritsz van Brekelenkam (Dutch, Zwammerdam? after 1620 - ca. 1669 Leiden)
Mother and Child in an Interior, ca. 1660
Oil on panel
25 1/8 x 18 5/8 in. (63.8 x 47.3 cm)
Gift of Dr. Alfred R. Bader, Parks Campbell (OC 1952), Robert M. Light (OC 1950), and Ruth C. Roush (OC 1934), in honor of Prof. Wolfgang Stechow, 1972
Representations of maternal duties, like this young mother tending her child in a kitchen glowing with warmth, were common in seventeenth-century Dutch genre painting. In part, such works encouraged and celebrated the skills and pleasures of middle-class domestic life.A young woman, wearing an apron over her skirt and fur-trimmed jacket, her head and shoulders modestly covered, offers an apple to the child in the close stool at her side. With one hand the child reaches for the fruit, and with the other grasps at the toy ring bar affixed to her chair. The woman has kicked off her shoes, and warms her feet with a brazier of coals in the footwarmer tucked beneath the folds of her skirt. In the background, a cat huddles by the fire burning in the hearth. Three majolica plates are displayed on the mantle above: the center one decorated with a bishop's miter, the others with cranes and border motifs.
Intimate scenes of mothers and children were a popular subject of Dutch painters in the mid-seventeenth century, particularly among artists of the Leiden school. Perhaps stimulated by ubiquitous contemporary exhortations to domestic virtue as found in such books as "Father" Jacob Cats's Houwelijck,1 Brekelenkam, Gerrit Dou (1613-1675), and other artists painted countless scenes of women engaged in domestic duties--cooking, cleaning, needlework, grooming, or child-rearing. Sometimes these paintings conveyed a specific moralizing or didactic "message" through visual allusions to texts or emblems. More commonly, however, paintings like Brekelenkam's Mother and Child in an Interior evoke in a more general way the merits and quotidian pleasures of domestic accomplishment, and the proper nurturing for children.
Brekelenkam painted a number of similar scenes of mothers and children throughout the late 1650s and '60s; Mother Feeding a Child (monogrammed and dated 1661) and Woman Feeding a Little Girl (1661) are closest to the present work in their subject matter and in their focus on the figures of woman and child.2 Among works by Brekelenkam's contemporaries, perhaps most closely related thematically is Two Women Teaching a Child to Walk (ca. 1668-72),3 by Pieter de Hooch (1629-1684), which shows a housewife offering an apple to a child while the maid teaches her to walk.
In her catalogue of works by the artist, Angelika Lasius questioned the attribution of the Oberlin painting to Brekelenkam, without, however, substantiating her doubts. Although the Oberlin painting is not signed, it is certainly by Brekelenkam. The strong geometry of the sparsely furnished interior is characteristic of Brekelenkam's compositions, as is the warm golden brown, almost monochromatic tonality. It probably dates to about 1660, as suggested by Stechow.4
M. E. Wieseman
Quirin van Brekelenkam was born probably in Zwammerdam shortly after 1622, 5 the son of Gerrit Andersz de Plutter and his wife Magdelena Crijnendr. It is not known when the artist adopted the surname "Brekelenkam." He was one of the founding members of the Leiden Guild of St. Luke in 1648. He was also married in that year, and again in 1656, following the death of his first wife. Documentary evidence suggests that the artist was not well off financially, and he was sued several times for failure to pay his debts. His last dated painting is from 1668, and it is believed that he died in this year or shortly after. Brekelenkam is perhaps best known for his genre scenes of artisans' workshops and domestic interiors. Stylistically, his early paintings (from 1648 on) are linked to the meticulous "fijnschilder" technique of Gerrit Dou (1613-1675); later works from the 1660s exhibit a looser, freer brushwork that is closer to the work of Gabriel Metsu (1629-1667) or Gerard ter Borch (1617-1681).
Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting. Exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1984, pp. 157-61.Honig, Elizabeth A. In Leidse Fijnschilders: van Gerrit Dou tot Frans van Mieris de Jonge 1630-1730. Exh. cat., Leiden, Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, 1988, pp. 80-93.Lasius, Angelika. Quiringh van Brekelenkam. Doornspijk, 1992.
Sale A. de Beurs Stiermans et al., Rotterdam, 23 April 1845, lot 9
Collection James Stillman, Paris
Anonymous gift to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1922 (acc. 22.16.16)
With Schaeffer Galleries, New York, 1972, from whom acquired
Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum 17, no. 2 (1922), p. 46. Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Catalogue of Paintings. Catalogue by Bryson Burroughs. New York, 1931, p. 33, no. B 74-2.Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 12.
Stechow, Wolfgang. "A Genre Painting by Brekelenkam." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 30, no. 2 (Winter 1973), pp. 74-84.
Sutton, Denys. "A Collection for Connoisseurs." Apollo 103, no. 168 (February 1976), p. 85, fig. 7.
Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1986, p. 212.
Lasius, Angelika. Quiringh van Brekelenkam. Doornspijk, 1992, p. 153, no. B29 (questionable attribution).
The panel was thinned to 3/16 in. (0.5 cm) thick and cradled prior to acquisition by the museum in 1972. The primary support is probably a single radially-cut board; there is a slightly curved split running the entire length of the panel about 3 1/2-4 in. (8.9-10.2 cm) from the left edge, which may partially coincide with a flush join.6 There is some inpainting along this crack, as well as some minor scattered inpainting in the background and in the woman's black coat. Overall, however, the painting is in excellent condition. The ground and paint surface are thinly applied (and the latter has become more transparent over time), rendering the wood grain visible in the background and some other areas.
1. Jacob Cats, Houwelijck (Middelburg, 1618).
2. Oil on panel (oval), 30.5 x 25.5 cm, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv. C113; and oil on panel, 36.2 x 32.4 cm, Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv. 311. Both reproduced in Angelika Lasius, Quiringh van Brekelenkam (Doornspijk, 1992), cat. nos. 142 and 143, respectively.
3. Oil on canvas, 67.5 x 59 cm, Leipzig, Museum der bildenden Künste, inv. 1558. See Otto Naumann, in Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting (exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1984), pp. 152-53; and Peter C. Sutton, Pieter de Hooch: Complete Edition with a Catalogue Raisonné (New York, 1980), p. 102, cat. 87, ill. pl. 90. Compare also similar scenes of mothers seated by a child in a close stool by Nicolaes Maes (Woman Making Lace; New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, inv. 32.200.5) and Reynier Covijn (Woman Peeling Apples, with a Child; location unknown; ill. W. Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt Schüler, vol. 3 [Landau/Pfalz, 1983], p. 1971). In Gerard ter Borch's Woman Peeling Apples, ca. 1660 (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Gemäldegalerie, inv. GG588), a child looks longingly at the apples being prepared, a motif repeated in Pieter de Hooch's Woman Peeling Apples with a Child, ca. 1663 (London, Wallace Collection, inv. P23).
4. Wolfgang Stechow, "A Genre Painting by Brekelenkam," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 30, no. 2 (Winter 1973), p. 80.
5. This proposed birthdate is based on the fact that no child with the artist's name is listed among members of the Brekelenkam/de Plutter family in the Zwammerdam census of 1622; see Elizabeth A. Honig, in Leidse Fijnschilders: van Gerrit Dou tot Frans van Mieris de Jonge 1630-1730 (exh. cat., Leiden, Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, 1988), p. 80; and Angelika Lasius, Quiringh van Brekelenkam (Doornspijk, 1992), p. 7.
6. Examination of existing x-radiographs (taken in 1972), and of the reverse and top and bottom edges of the panel for evidence of a join was inconclusive (examination by Aiella Diamantopoulos, ICA, September 1995).