The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
A Woman at her Mirror
  • Gabriel Metsu (1629 - 1667)
  • A Woman at her Mirror
  • Netherlands
  • 1657 - c.1662
  • Painting
  • Oil on oak panel
  • Image size: 19.2 x 16.6 cm
  • Signature: 'G Metsú', the 'GM' in monogram
  • P206
  • East Galleries II
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • In seventeenth-century Dutch painting the mirror, which generally symbolised vanity or human frailty, could also connote lasciviousness or voluptuousness. The woman holds a double sided ivory comb in her right hand. In the emblematic literature of the day the comb served as a reminder of the dual nature of earthly goods, which could be employed for either virtue or vice. The picture can thus be read as an allegory of the dangers of concentrating too much on the physical and the need to pay attention to the inner spirit as well as to outward appearances. The theme of a woman before a mirror had appeared in Netherlandish art since at least the time of Hieronymous Bosch, where the subject stood for the sin of pride.