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