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Work View of an Interior, or The Slippers (traditional title, given in the 19th century)

Department of Paintings: Dutch painting

View of an Interior, or The Slippers (traditional title, given in the 19th century)

© 2008 Musée du Louvre / Georges Poncet

Paintings
Dutch painting

Author(s):
Kazerouni Guillaume

From 1839-42 to 1877-83, this painting bore Pieter de Hooch's monogram with the not unlikely date of 1658. Contemporary with the early work of de Hooch and Vermeer, it was formerly attributed to each but is quite distinct from the latter's experiments. Alluding - as does the Ter Borch-inspired picture in the background - to the vain and gallant pastimes of the absent mistress of the house, this is a subtly moralistic piece, a fascinating exercise in perspective, and a painting of poetic calm.

Perspective and poetry

What is striking here at first is the absence of subject, or at least of any figures to animate this peaceful Dutch interior. Hoogstraten focused all his attention on the rigorous spatial construction. Depth of field is rendered through the succession of receding planes of motifs that seem to fit into one another: namely, the picture frame, the two door casings, and the two paintings hanging on the back wall. The illusion of perspective is subtly enhanced by the oblique lines of the various tiled floors, as well as by the alternating contrast of warm light and shadows. The painting becomes a sort of trompe l'oeil, a window or a door open onto the atmosphere of another century. A delightful poetic mood, rhythmically structured by lines and color, radiates from the whole, bringing to mind the contemporary experiments of Pieter de Hooch.

Symbolism with a moralizing intent

Despite the stunning rendition of spatial illusion, one should avoid seeing in this canvas the product of a mere interplay of forms. The apparent simplicity and naiveté of the subject hides a moralizing intention. Hoogstraten did not place his objects randomly in this quiet bourgeois interior. Most have a symbolic meaning that would have been obvious at the time. The slippers, lying in full view in the painting's center, have just been tossed off hastily in the hallway. These small shoes, meant to be worn inside the house, become a sign of a depraved existence now that they have been discarded. The mistress of the house has abandoned her tranquil domestic activities: she has negligently left her broom leaning against the wall and interrupted her reading (the book, significantly, is closed) for an amorous rendez-vous. The painting within the painting - a Father Admonishing his Daughter by Casper Netscher (1655, Gotha Museum) - is a variant of a work by Gerard Ter Borch denouncing venal love. The vanity of this gallant demimonde is fully contained in the image of the snuffed candle, the symbol of time wasted in following loose morals. Hoogstraten's great genius is exemplified by this artful denunciation of amorous adventures, which are suggested but remain concealed from the viewer in an alcove at the end of a second succession of rooms.

The painting's chaotic history

The painting's history, filled with turns and twists, was affected by the overbearing shadow of famous painters such as Vermeer or de Hooch. Many ever-changing attributions for this painting were tossed around. At certain moments, it was even thought to be an 18th-century or early 19th-century pastiche. In the 19th century, some collectors went so far as to have new motifs painted onto the canvas: first a little dog, then Pieter de Hooch's monogram with the date 1658, and finally a little girl, seated. The picture seemed too empty and there was a desire to fill up the 'decor' so as to bring the work closer to the art of someone like Vermeer or de Hooch. Luckily, all the successive additions were easily removed, and the painting restored to its original purity, so characteristic of Hoogstraten.

Bibliography

Exposition, Paris, musée du Petit Palais, 1970, Le Siècle de Rembrandt : tableaux hollandais des collections publiques françaises, Paris. Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1970, p.110-111.
Jacques Foucart, Le tableau du mois n 29, Les pantoufles par Samuel van Hoogstraten, du 4 septembre au 30 septembre 1996.

Technical description

  • Samuel van HOOGSTRATEN

    View of an Interior, or The Slippers (traditional title, given in the 19th century)

    between 1654 and 1662

  • Oil on canvas

    H. 1.03 m; W. 0.7 m

  • Gift of Hortense (1867-1932), Princess Louis de Croÿ, daughter of Count Oscar de l'Espine, Paris, 1930; entered the museum's collections in 1932 (at the same time as Vermeer)

    R.F. 3722

  • Paintings

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