Woman at Her Toilette

Gabriel Metsu (Dutch, 1629-1667)
c. 1658
Oil on panel 
25-1/2 x 22-3/4 in. (64.8 x 57.8 cm) 
Credit Line:
The Norton Simon Foundation 
Accession Number:
© The Norton Simon Foundation 
On View

Depictions of a woman at her toilette were popular among collectors, and the topic allowed artists to describe the intimate confines of the Dutch home and its feminine space. The wistful outward gaze of the woman having her hair combed invites the viewer to contemplate her surroundings, perhaps to decipher her thoughts. A consummate painter of detail, Metsu uses light to enliven the interior of the room and the objects therein. It glows on the viola da gamba, sparkles across the ornate silver plate and suggests the diaphanous texture of the green drape that catches a puff of wind. The topic of a woman at her toilette has a long history in the visual arts that embraces both positive and negative connotations. The mirror, for instance, can suggest vanity or introspection. The playing of music, suggested by the sheet music and the stringed instrument, typically references love and, with the cast-off slipper nearby, perhaps longing. Such visual puzzles embedded in naturalistic scenes are characteristic of Dutch art in the 17th century.


Jonas Jonasz. Witsen, (sale, Amsterdam, Zomer, Raket & Benoorden, 31 March 1717, no. 53).
Jacob van Leyen, (sale, Amsterdam, 17 April 1720, no. 6).
Joachim Rendorp, (sale, Amsterdam, Van der Schley, Roos & de Vries, 9 July 1794, no. 37 to);
Eberlein [probably one of the CPs for the sale, Johannes Eberlein].
Corneille-Louis Reynders, (sale, Brussels, Nieuwenhuys de Man, 8 August 1821, no. 64, bought in by);
[Nieuwenhuys, as CP, for 2,400 frs., for];
Le Chevalier Sébastien Erard, Château de la Muette, Passy (sale, Paris, Château de la Muette, 7 August 1832, no. 93, bought in for 8000); (sale, London, Christie’s, 22 June 1833, no. 34 to);
Rev. W. Clowes.
John Rogers, London (sale, London, Christie’s, 30 April-1 May, 1847, lot 184, sold 270 Gns to);
[Nieuwenhuys, London].
Marquise Théodule de Rhodes (sale, Paris, Le Roy, Petit, 30 May 1868, lot 9).
[E. H. Phillips, London, sold 1879 to];
Sir Francis Cook (d. 1901), by inheritance to;
Sir Herbert Cook (d. 1939), Doughty House, Richmond, sold 2 October 1944 to;
[Thomas Agnew & Sons and Edward Speelman] stock no. 9012; sold 9 July 1945 to;
Sir John Heathcoat-Amory, Bart., Tiverton (d. 1972), sold 1972 to;
[Edward Speelman, Ltd., London] sold 1972 to;
The Norton Simon Foundation, Pasadena.

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