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The Music Lesson (Musikalishe Unterhaltung)

Accession Number
2011/2.179

Title
The Music Lesson (Musikalishe Unterhaltung)

Artist(s)
Caspar Netscher

Object Creation Date
circa 1665

Medium & Support
oil on panel

Dimensions
31 1/4 in. x 27 1/4 in. ( 79.38 cm x 69.22 cm )

Credit Line
Gift from the Collection of Mr. & Mrs. Heydon

Label copy
In 2011 the Museum of Art received the gift of an important panel painting by the Dutch painter Caspar Netscher (born Germany, 1639?–1684). This very fine work is an important addition to UMMA’s holdings in Dutch painting and represents a genre not already present in the collections—the subject of music making in a domestic interior. Beginning around 1650, scenes of low-life pastimes, such as drinking and dancing in taverns, were replaced by more affluent and refined interior scenes; Netscher’s The Music Lesson reflects that transition. Here, four figures are shown in a dark but carefully constructed interior space: the man on the left plays a theorbo, an early bass lute, and accompanies the singing woman; seated at the far side of the table is another couple. Such domestic scenes from the middle of the seventeenth century reflect the sophisticated taste of Dutch consumers and the painting richly emphasizes the pleasures of the senses: the aural beauty of the music, the delicate qualities of light, and the textures of fabrics are depicted with a verisimilitude that seems to conjure up the physical world.
Netscher was the son of a German sculptor and trained in Arnhem with the still life painter Hendrick Coster (fl. 1638–1659) before studying with Gerard ter Borch (1617–1681). Ter Borch’s influence on Netscher’s style can be seen in the handling of the rich cream-colored satin of the seated woman’s dress, as well as in the delicately described but ambiguous psychological relationships between the figures. Netscher settled in The Hague by 1662, where he remained until his death.
The painting came to the United States from Vienna in the 1930s and was in the collection of UM Professor of English Language and Literature William A. Coles before Rita and Peter Heydon acquired it. The Heydons have long supported the Museum of Art and have donated several nineteenth-century works. They have also led the effort to find a period replacement frame for the University of Michigan’s portrait of President Angell by William Merritt Chase, on view near the Museum’s administrative offices.
Carole McNamara
UMMA Senior Curator of Western Art
[label]
Caspar Netscher
Germany, 1639?–1684
The Music Lesson (Musikalische Unterhaltung)
circa 1665
Oil on panel
Gift from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Heydon, 2011/2.179

Subject matter
The painting depicts an affluent and refined interior scene. Four figures are shown in a dark but carefully constructed interior space: the man on the left plays a theorbo, an early bass lute, and accompanies the singing woman; seated at the far side of the table is another couple. The painting richly emphasizes the pleasures of the senses: the aural beauty of the music, the delicate qualities of light, and the textures of fabrics are depicted with a verisimilitude that seems to conjure up the physical world.

Physical Description
A panel portrait of two men and two women. One man plays a mandolin while the other watches one of the women. The woman he is watching is standing by the table and holding a dog. The second woman is sitting next to the mandolin player and reading.

Primary Object Classification
Painting

Primary Object Type
portrait

Additional Object Classification(s)
Painting

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
Dutch (culture or style)
genre (visual works)
men (male humans)
music rooms
oil paintings (visual works)
panel paintings (paintings by form)
stringed instruments (musical instruments)
teaching
women (female humans)

& Author Notes

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