The Wallace Collection

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The Lace Maker
  • Caspar Netscher (1639 - 1684)
  • The Lace Maker
  • Netherlands
  • 1662
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 33 x 27 cm
  • Signature: 'C. NETSCHER 1662.'
  • P237
  • East Galleries II
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • A pupil of Gerard ter Borch, Netscher specialised in small-scale genre scenes in the manner of his teacher. Later in his career, from c.1667, he focused instead on portraits of patrician subjects. Netscher’s undisputed masterpiece, The Lace Maker, is one of the most successful representations of idealised female virtue in Dutch art. In the seventeenth century, women were frequently depicted as dangerous creatures, prone to vice if left to their own devices. Contemporary moralists recommended marriage and housewifery as the only fit occupations for women. Within the home, one of the housewife’s principal duties was to maintain its order and cleanliness, implied in this picture by the broom propped against the wall on the left. The girl’s modest woollen dress implies her lack of vanity, while her absorption in the delicate and difficult task of lace-making underlines her seriousness and moral rectitude. Such an image of the demure housewife, prudent and chaste, had wider implications too, since the home and its correct organization were considered of supreme importance in determining the moral fate of Dutch society as a whole.