The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
The Sleeping Sportsman
  • Gabriel Metsu (1629 - 1667)
  • The Sleeping Sportsman
  • Netherlands
  • c.1658 - c.1660
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 40.3 x 34.9 cm
  • Signature: 'G Mets[u]' 's' indistinct
  • P251
  • East Galleries II
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • Gabriel Metsu started painting in Leiden, where he depicted interior scenes in the manner of Gerrit Dou. By the time he moved to Amsterdam in 1657, he combined a variety of influences in his work, including Jan Steen, ter Borch, de Hooch and Vermeer. The hunt is often metaphorically interpreted as man’s pursuit of woman in seventeenth-century Dutch genre painting. Numerous Dutch and German texts of the period indicate that 'vogelen' (to bird) was a euphemism for sexual intercourse and 'Vogelaar' (bird-catcher) could refer to a lover. Here, however, alchohol has rendered the hunter incapable of reaping the rewards of his hunting prowess. An apparent self-portrait of the artist, he is depicted in a stupor, a flagon at his feet, with one gaiter dropping and the position of a pipe in his lap suggesting his sexual impotence. The woman, standing expectantly in the doorway with an empty glass, looks beyond the sleeping figure to a second man who leans and mocks from a window, arm raised, ready to steal the huntsman’s ‘bird’, or rather, his opportunity for dalliance with the mistress of the house. The smiling interloper, and the dog wagging his tail, both gaze knowingly at the viewer.