Woman at Her Toilette
c. 1658
Gabriel Metsu (Dutch, 1629-1667)
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.


  • Artist Name: Gabriel Metsu (Dutch, 1629-1667)
  • Title: Woman at Her Toilette
  • Date: c. 1658
  • Medium: Oil on panel
  • Dimensions: 25-1/2 x 22-3/4 in. (64.8 x 57.8 cm)
  • Credit Line: The Norton Simon Foundation
  • Accession Number: F.1972.15.1.P
  • Copyright: © The Norton Simon Foundation

Object Information

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.

The Heathcote Amory Collection

  • King's Lynn, St. George's Guildhall, 1965-07-17 to 1965-07-31

Gabriel Metsu

  • Leiden, Stedelijk Museum "de Lakenhal", 1966-06-22 to 1966-09-05

Exhibition of 17th Century Dutch Pictures

  • , 1958-07-26 to 1958-08-09

Thirty-Five Masterpieces of European Painting

  • London, Thomas Agnew & Sons, 1946-11 to 1946-12

Encountering the Dutch Likeness: Portraiture in 17th Century Holland

  • Norton Simon Museum, 1993-09-02 to 1996

Tulips are in Bloom

  • Norton Simon Museum, 1993-04-29 to 1993-08
  • Gudlaugsson, S. J., Oud Holland 83, n. 22 pp. 24, 25, 40
  • Fermoy Art Gallery, The Heathcote Armory Collection, no. 12 pp. 2, 15
  • Hoet, Gérard, Catalogus of naamlyst van schilderyen, 1752, p. 208
  • Smith, John, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French painters, 1837, no. 74 p. 97
  • de Groot, C. Hofstede, A Catalogue Raisonne of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth CEntury, 1908, no. 88
  • Brockwell, M. W., A Catalogue of Painting in the Collection of Sir Herbert Cook at Doughty House, 1915, no. 284
  • Thomas Agnew and Sons, Thirty-five Masterpieces, 1946, no. 5
  • Wessem, J. N., and Lucia Thyssen, Gabriel Metsu, 1966, no. 32 pp. 96-97
  • Schneede, Uwe M., Oud Holland 83, 1968, fig. 6 pp. 47, 51
  • Robinson, Franklin W., Gabriel Metsu (1629-1667): A Study of his Place in Dutch Genre Painting of the Golden Age, 1974, fig. 122 p. 49, 172
  • Norton Simon Museum, Selected Paintings at the Norton Simon Museum, 1980, p. 51
  • Sutton, P.; W. Robinson, O Naumann, J. Kelch, C. Brown, Exhibition Catalogue: Masters of the Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting, 1984, p. 253
  • Sutton, Peter C., A Guide to Dutch Art in America, 1986, p. 218
  • Masterpieces from the Norton Simon Museum, 1989, p. 82
  • Sutton, Peter C., Great Dutch Paintings from America, 1990, fig. 3 p. 108
  • Sutton, P. C., Dutch and Flemish Seventeenth-Century Paintings, 1992, fig. 8 pp. 8-9
  • Wheelock, A., et al., Johannes Vermeer, 1995, fig. 13 p. 40
  • Danziger, Elon, The Burlington Magazine, 2004, p. 448
  • Waiboer, Dr. Adriaan, Gabriel Metsu: Life and Work, 2010, Fig. A-28 p. 42
  • Campbell, Sara, Collector Without Walls: Norton Simon and His Hunt for the Best, 2010, cat. 791 p. 339
  • Todorov, Tzvetan, Elogio de lo cotidiano, 2013, Fig. 15 p. # 49, p.# 50, p.#51, p.#52
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