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The Concert: Singer and Theorbo Player

© 2004 RMN / Franck Raux

Dutch painting

Collange Adeline

A delicate musical scene, which plays on the symbolism of musical and emotional harmony.

A concert

The scene takes place in a comfortable bourgeois interior. A rich tapestry hangs in the background, and the table is covered by a luxurious oriental carpet with the kind of colorful, geometric design that appealed to northern painters. The two young women are giving a little concert: the one on the left is playing a theorbo; her companion, who is seated, is following the score, beating time, and no doubt preparing to sing. A young servant has brought a glass of beer on a tray. Ter Borch reused (and refined) the genre scenes that were in vogue a few years earlier through the influence of painters such as Pieter Jacobsz. Codde.

The poetry of silence

The sober setting draws attention to the characters, who seem to be in a safe and cozy world of their own. The singer's bright dress and the scarlet of the chair are like high notes in this scene, painted in a palette of rather discreet grays and browns. Ter Borch paid great attention to the rendering of fabrics, and created a truly admirable effect here with the white and gray harmony of the skirt and pale yellow of the bodice. The subtlety of the chromatic scale is like a painted echo to the music. Besides these graceful and sophisticated scenes, Ter Borch painted even more intimist works such as the tender Reading Lesson (in the Louvre). This "poetry of silence" recalls the calm compositions of Vermeer. Indeed, in later life, Ter Borch was not insensitive to the art of the Delft master.

An elegant reflection of the bourgeoisie

From 1654, Ter Borch concentrated almost exclusively on refined paintings of this kind and on portraits of wealthy bourgeois, painting military subjects only rarely. These charming interior scenes (many of which have romantic connotations) were very popular with the Dutch bourgeoisie, who appreciated Ter Borch's elegant portrayal of their class. The painter multiplied these "fashionable subjects", often reusing favorite motifs such as the carpet on the tablecloth or the singer's rather graceless profile (so characteristic of his female figures). French art lovers of the 18th century were also avid collectors of his work, sensitive as they were to his taste for pleasant, poetic scenes.


Le Siècle de Rembrandt : tableaux hollandais des collections publiques françaises, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1970, p. 21.

Technical description

  • Gerard ter BORCH (Zwolle, 1617 - Deventer, 1681)

    The Concert: Singer and Theorbo Player

    c. 1657

  • H. 0.47 m; W. 0.44 m

  • Brissac confiscation, 1794 , 1794

    INV. 1901

  • Paintings

    Richelieu wing
    2nd floor
    Holland, second half of the 17th century
    Room 837

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Additional information about the work

Monogrammed GTB (barely legible)