The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
The Listening Housewife (The Eavesdropper)
  • Nicolas Maes (1634 - 1693)
  • The Listening Housewife (The Eavesdropper)
  • Netherlands
  • 1656
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 84.7 x 70.6 cm
    Frame size: 114 x 100.2 cm
  • Signature: 'N. MAES. 1656'
  • P224
  • East Galleries I
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • One of Maes’ most original genre motifs was the interior with an eavesdropper, here an elegant housewife, who smiles engagingly, inviting the viewer to witness the misbehaviour of the servants downstairs. The Dutch call this glimpse of action beyond the main scene a 'doorkijkje'. This device had been used in northern art as early as the fifteenth century. The painting’s warm palette and strong light and shade effects relate it to Rembrandt, but Maes’ originality lies in the emphasis on the illusion of interior space. The light here not only serves the depiction of space and depth, but also underlines the judgmental attitude, by contrasting the calm and probity of the dining room with the moral as well as physical descent towards the heated kitchen.