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A Woman playing a Clavichord

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Dou trained as a glass and copper engraver and became a pupil of Rembrandt in the late 1620s when they were both working in Leiden. At this time, Rembrandt favoured a high finish and fine detail as seen in his portrait of Jacob de Gheyn (DPG99). Dou also developed these qualities, but his dedication to this style surpassed that of his master’s when he went on to found the Leiden school of fijnschilders (fine-painters). He became increasingly popular with 17th- and 18th-century collectors who valued him more than any other Dutch artist, including Rembrandt.

Dou mainly depicted domestic scenes, often with moral or allegorical meanings. The depiction of musicians in the Netherlands became association with love. Here, the young woman has paused in her playing, perhaps welcoming her lover who will accompany her on the viola da gamba. This painting is typical of the fijnschilder technique with its exact rendering of materials, textures and light that capture the smooth surface of the viola, the softness of the red velvet cushion and the cold metal of the bird cage. Elsewhere, the weave of the tapestry becomes almost tactile as it is pinned back to reveal the scene behind.

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Currently on display

Gerrit Dou
Gallery 5
37.7 x 29.9 cm
Oil on oak panel
Bourgeois Bequest, 1811
Accession number
Adopted by the Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery, 1991