Man Writing and Woman Reading

Gabriel Metsu, ca. 1664 — 1666
National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

Ahh! The lost art of letter writing, connecting distant lovers to one another. Metsu’s pendants poetically express the necessity of writing and the joy of receiving amorous correspondence.  The theme is one we might associate with Gerard ter Borch, the compositions are close to those Johannes Vermeer would create. In the crucible of his imagination and by the magic of his brush, Metsu further establishes his own brand with this memorable pair. His sensitive portrayal of the deeply engaged figures, the subtle illumination – fading afternoon light for the epistle writer and crystalline morning light for the reader – and his varied use of brushwork illustrate why these masterful works are worthy of inclusion in the CODART Canon. The apparent nonchalance of the servant, drawing back the curtain protecting the seascape on the back wall of the Woman Reading a Letter – feigning indifference but fully aware of what’s going on – adds a deeply human and slyly humorous dimension.

Ronni Baer, Distinguished Curator and Lecturer, Princeton University Art Museum, NJ

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