The Courtyard of a House in Delft

Pieter de Hooch, 1658
The National Gallery, London

It’s all here: female figures in an outdoor yet domestic space whose harmony and order are sublimated by the perspective and light. This courtyard bathed in the silvery rays of a summer’s day encapsulates all the qualities of Pieter de Hooch’s pictorial production and innovations. A genre scene structured by the perspective lines of the courtyard bricks is set at the rear of a house in a space that is private and yet open to the sky and enlivened by vegetation. The viewer is invited to penetrate the depths of the space by passing beneath the arch and then through the doorway, glimpsing the street – a patch of brightness – beyond. Audacious framing places a red shutter on the left, steering the gaze towards the mistress of the house, a contemplative figure seen from behind whose contours shimmer in the light. The role of this lady, key to the painting’s composition, is counterbalanced by the presence of the servant and child, who exchange a complicit glance as they leave the storeroom where they have filled a dish and the child’s apron with items of food that remain hidden from our view.

Cécile Tainturier, Curator, Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris

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The painting in the exhibition 'Class Distinctions' (MFA Boston, 2015-2016)

Video with Ronni Baer (3 mins)

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