(Amsterdam 1650 – 1693 Delft)
Merry Company in an Interior
1673 - 75
Oil on canvas
25 5/8 x 30 11/16 in (65.1 x 77.9 cm)
Private Collection, The Netherlands; Private Collection, Geneva, 1985 – 2005; Private Collection, New York.
Franklin W. Robinson, Gabriel Metsu, 1974, pp. 94-99, nos 12, p. 224 illustrated fig. 233.
Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting, exhib. cat., Philadelphia, etc., 1984, pp. 334-35 (mentioned).
Emmett Murphy, Great Bordellos of the World, New York, 1983, p. 196, illus. in color (reversed).
The Dutch golden age painter Johannes Verkolje came from a family of artists and passed on the tradition to his two sons, Nicolaas and Jan II. According to Houbraken, he spent six months as a pupil of Jan Lievens. Though he painted mythological scenes and portraits he is best known for his genre scenes, which were enormously popular in the Netherlands in the seventeenth century. He was greatly influenced by the previous generation of Dutch genre painters, notably Gabriel Metsu, Gerard ter Borch and Caspar Netscher. Verkolje was born in Amsterdam but was married in Delft in 1672 and joined that city’s Guild of St. Luke the following year, and he served as dean between 1678 and 1688. Houbraken mentions Albertus van der Burch, Joan van der Spriet and Willem Verschuuring, among others, as Verkolje’s pupils.
The present work displays a merry company of six arranged around a table in the center of finely finished room. To the left of two amorous couples is a soldier with his back to us, attempting to tickle a dozing with a feather pulled from his hat. Verkolje here employed common iconographic conventions that would have been immediately understood by his viewers for their moralizing overtones. The overturned chair, for instance, is a subtle warning against profligate behavior, moreover, the comingling of young partners with the aged woman serves as a commentary on youthful folly. The young woman in the center of the scene offers a glass of wine to the man who leans in closely, caressing her shoulder. She holds a small tankard with the opened lid in his direction, a thinly veiled sexual symbol of her own “openness.”