Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Visit to the Nursery

Gabriël Metsu (Dutch, Leiden 1629–1667 Amsterdam)
Oil on canvas
30 1/2 x 32 in. (77.5 x 81.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 632
In an impressively appointed room, modeled on a large chamber in the new Town Hall of Amsterdam, the parents of a newborn baby receive a fashionable well-wisher. Such a kraambezoek (cradle visit) was a minor ritual of polite society. At least two of the poses recall figures by one of Holland’s closest observers of modern manners, Gerard ter Borch. The painting was celebrated in its own time—for example, in a poem by Jan Vos of 1662—but unfortunately its surface is badly worn from cleanings in the past.
Celebrated in its own day, this picture was almost certainly painted by Metsu expressly for its first owner, the Amsterdam alderman Jan Jacobsz Hinlopen. Jan Vos (1610–1667), who served as "house poet" to the Hinlopen family, included a poem about the painting in the 1662 edition of his collected works. The poem identified its distinctively Dutch subject as a kraambezoek (lying-in visit), a social ritual also depicted in the Museum's painting by Matthijs Naiveu (MMA 71.160).

The scene is set in an imaginary zaal or voorkamer (front or reception room) of a magnificent town house, and represents the artist's idea of an extremely luxurious lying-in room, which in the finest homes might have featured the extravagant furnishings seen here. The refinement of customs and objects pertaining to childbirth may be considered a reflection, in part, of the fact that mothers and especially infants often did not survive the experience. The extraordinary size of the room exceeds what would have been found in almost any private house in a Dutch city during the period, with the possible exception of a very few new houses in Amsterdam. In fact, Metsu modeled the room's main features—the fireplace with red marble columns and a frieze with putti, the black-and-white marble floor, and the doorway revealed by drapery—after the burgomasters' council chamber in the new Town Hall (now the Royal Palace) of Amsterdam, designed by Jacob van Campen and in use from 1655.

The area of the painting over the fireplace is now very worn but shows a small ship tossed in a stormy sea, reminiscent of marines by Jacob van Ruisdael that date from about the early 1660s. The subject refers here to the journey of life that has just begun for the infant, and the role that fate will play.

Metsu's family portrait of about 1662 in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, is now known to depict the original owners of this work. While there is a general resemblance between the parents in that work and those in the MMA painting, it is not strong enough to qualify the painting as a "genrelike portrait" of the Hinlopens, as suggested by Thiel (1997). The work must have been regarded by the Hinlopens as a conversation piece that evoked their world but did not portray it literally.

Occasionally, doubt has been expressed about whether the MMA work is identical with the kraamkamer by Metsu that was in the famous collection of Gerrit Braamcamp, based on Bastide's 1766 catalogue, in which the support is identified as wood. In 1833, Smith described the work as on canvas. Examination of the painting and an x-radiograph indicates clearly that the paint film and ground were transferred from their original support at some unknown date, and that the original support was canvas, not wood. Since many paintings by Metsu are on panel, and because even his canvases usually have a smooth surface, it would not be surprising that Bastide mistakenly noted the support as wood when looking at the picture during his room-to-room survey of pictures in Braamcamp's house.

Hofstede de Groot lists a few copies after the Museum's painting, and another was mentioned by Lagrange. A picture listed in an Amsterdam sale of May 18, 1706, as an exceptionally fine work by Metsu depicting a woman with a child on her lap and other figures in a room (Hoet 1752) may have been this work, an autograph replica, or a copy.

[2010; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Signed and dated (left, above door): G.Metsu 1661
Jan Jacobsz. Hinloopen, Amsterdam (by 1662); ?sale, Amsterdam, May 18, 1706, no. 2, for fl. 435; Jan de Wolf (before 1721); [David Ietswaart, Amsterdam, until 1749; his sale, Amsterdam, April 22ff., 1749, no. 24, for fl. 850, to Daalens for Braamcamp]; Gerret Braamcamp, Amsterdam (1749–d. 1771; his estate sale, Amsterdam, July 31, 1771, no. 124, for fl. 1,200 to Oets); [Pieter Oets, Amsterdam, from 1771]; Charles-Auguste-Louis-Joseph de Morny, duc de Morny, Paris (until d. 1865; his estate sale, Palais de la Présidence du Corps Législatif, Paris, May 31–June 12, 1865, no. 58, for Fr 50,000, bought in by the duchesse de Morny); his widow, Sophie Troubetzkoi, duchesse de Morny, later duquesa de Sexto, Madrid (1865–at least about 1883); [Sedelmeyer, Paris, in 1895]; Rodolphe Kann, Paris (by 1900–d. 1905; his estate, 1905–7; cat., 1907, vol. 1, no. 55; sold to Duveen); [Duveen, London and New York, 1907; sold for £31,000 to Morgan]; J. Pierpont Morgan, New York (1907–d. 1913; his estate, 1913–17)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Hudson-Fulton Celebration," September–November 1909, no. 64.

Amsterdam. Royal Palace. "The Royal Palace of Amsterdam in Paintings of the Golden Age," June 6–September 7, 1997, no. 20.

Osaka Municipal Museum of Art. "The Public and the Private in the Age of Vermeer," April 4–July 2, 2000, no. 26.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.

Dublin. National Gallery of Ireland. "Gabriel Metsu: Rediscovered Master of the Dutch Golden Age," September 4–December 5, 2010, no. 27.

Washington. National Gallery of Art. "Gabriel Metsu, 1629–1667," April 17–July 24, 2011, no. 27.

Toronto. Aga Khan Museum. "A Thirst for Riches: Carpets from the East in Paintings from the West," June 6–October 18, 2015, no catalogue.

Jan Vos. Alle de Gedichten van den vermaarden Poëet Jan Vos. Amsterdam, 1662, p. 654 [1726 ed., vol. 1, p. 388; see letter of September 4, 2001 in archive file and Refs. Hofstede de Groot 1893 and Weber 1991], includes a poem describing this picture as hanging in the home of Jan Jakobsen Hinloopen, "Op de Schildery van een Kraamvrouw, in de zaal van den E. Heer Scheepen Jan Jakobsen Hinloopen, door G. Moetsu geschildert".

Arnold Houbraken. De Groote Schouburgh der Nederlantsche Konstschilders en Schilderessen. Vol. 3, Amsterdam, 1721, p. 41 [1753 ed. reprinted in 1976; reprinted in German as "Arnold Houbraken's grosse Schouburgh der niederländischen Maler und Malerinnen," ed. Alfred von Wurzbach, Vienna, 1880, vol. 1, p. 312], as formerly owned by Jan de Wolf.

Gerard Hoet. Catalogus of Naamlyst van Schilderyen, met derzelver pryzen, zedert een langen reeks van Jaaren zoo in Holland als op andere Plaatzen in het openbaar verkogt. Vol. 1, The Hague, 1752, p. 94, no. 2, as in the sale of 1706, sold for fl. 435, possibly this picture; as in the Letswaart sale of 1749, sold for fl. 850.

Gerard Hoet. Catalogus of Naamlyst van Schilderyen, met derzelver pryzen, zedert een langen reeks van Jaaren zoo in Holland als op andere Plaatzen in het openbaar verkogt. Vol. 2, The Hague, 1752, p. 240, no. 24.

J. B. Descamps. La Vie des peintres flamands, allemands et hollandois. Vol. 2, Paris, 1754, p. 245, as in the collection of M. Braamcamp, Amsterdam.

Jean François de Bastide. Le Temple des arts ou le cabinet de M. Braamcamp. Amsterdam, 1766, p. 99 [see correspondence of September 11, 1996 in archive file], mistakenly as on wood.

John Smith. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. Vol. 4, London, 1833, p. 80, no. 19, records the sale price in the Braamcamp sale of 1771 as fl. 1200.

C. J. Nieuwenhuys. A Review of the Lives and Works of Some of the Most Eminent Painters: With Remarks on the Opinions and Statements of Former Writers. London, 1834, pp. 296–97, cites Houbraken's [see Ref. 1721] description of the picture and then lists the provenance of "a picture corresponding to the above description" [also the MMA work] without definitely linking the two paintings; does not know the current location of either.

Charles Blanc. Le trésor de la curiosité. Vol. 1, Paris, 1857, p. 470, quotes the catalogue entry from the Braamcamp sale of 1771.

Léon Lagrange. "La galerie de M. le duc de Morny." Gazette des beaux-arts 14 (April 1863), pp. 293–94, ill. between pp. 292 and 293 (engraving by L. Flameng), calls a version in the Hermitage a copy after this work; identifies the painting hanging above the fireplace as a seascape by Backhuysen.

Léon Lagrange. "Le Salon de 1864." Gazette des beaux-arts 16 (1864), p. 532, compares the painting "L'Accouchée" by Willems, exhibited at the Salon, to this picture, then in the collection of the duc de Morny.

"Mouvement des arts et de la curiosité: Vente de la galerie Morny." Chronique des arts et de la curiosité, supplément à la Gazette des beaux-arts no. 109 (June 18, 1865), p. 217, states that it was bought at the Morny sale by the duchesse de Morny.

Corn. Hofstede de Groot. Arnold Houbraken und seine "Groote Schouburgh". The Hague, 1893, pp. 144, 469, mentions a 1662 edition of the collected poems of Jan Vos that includes the poem "Op de Schildery" describing this picture; states that Bredius saw this picture about ten years earlier [i.e., about 1883] in the collection of the widow of the duc de Morny in Madrid.

Illustrated Catalogue of the Second Hundred of Paintings by Old Masters . . . Belonging to the Sedelmeyer Gallery. Paris, 1895, p. 30, no. 25, ill. opp. p. 30.

Wilhelm [von] Bode. Gemäldesammlung des Herrn Rudolf Kann in Paris. Vienna, 1900, p. III, pl. 15.

Gustav Glück. "Die Gemäldesammlung des Herrn Rudolf Kann in Paris." Die Graphischen Künste 23 (1900), p. 91.

Wilhelm [von] Bode. Gemälde-Sammlung des Herrn Rudolf Kann in Paris. Vienna, 1900, p. X, ill. p. XXI (gallery photograph).

Émile Michel. "La Galerie de M. Rodolphe Kann (1er article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 25 (May 1901), p. 392, ill. p. 393.

Auguste Marguillier. "La collection de M. Rodolphe Kann." Les arts 2 (February 1903), p. 24, ill. p. 20.

C[ornelis]. Hofstede de Groot. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. Ed. Edward G. Hawke. Vol. 1, London, 1907, pp. 284–85, no. 110, catalogues four copies.

Catalogue of the Rodolphe Kann Collection: Pictures. Paris, 1907, vol. 1, pp. VI, 56, no. 55, ill. opp. p. 56.

Marcel Nicolle. "La Collection Rodolphe Kann." Revue de l'art ancien et moderne 23 (January–June 1908), p. 197, ill. opp. p. 196.

Wilhelm R. Valentiner. The Hudson-Fulton Celebration: Catalogue of an Exhibition Held in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1909, vol. 1, p. 65, no. 64, ill. opp. p. 65.

Kronig. "Gabriel Metsu." Revue de l'art ancien et moderne 25 (1909), pp. 93–94 n. 1, pp. 217, 222, ill. p. 95.

Joseph Breck. "L'art hollandais à l'exposition Hudson-Fulton à New York." L'art flamand & hollandais 13, no. 2 (1910), p. 58 [published in Dutch in Onze Kunst 17 (February 1910), p. 43, ill.].

E[mil]. Waldmann. "Die Ausstellung Holländischer Gemälde des 17. Jahrhunderts in New York." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, n.s., 21, no. 4 (1910), pp. 82–83, ill.

Kenyon Cox. "Dutch Pictures in The Hudson-Fulton Exhibition—III." Burlington Magazine 16 (February 1910), p. 305.

"The Pierpont Morgan Gift." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 13 (January 1918), p. 16, ill. p. 17.

Isabella Errera. Répertoire des peintures datées. Vol. 1, Brussels, 1920, p. 301.

H[orst]. Gerson in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 24, Leipzig, 1930, p. 440.

Bryson Burroughs. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Catalogue of Paintings. 9th ed. New York, 1931, p. 243.

W[ilhelm]. Martin. De Hollandsche Schilderkunst in de zeventiende Eeuw. Vol. 2, Rembrandt en zijn Tijd. Amsterdam, 1936, pp. 224, 226, fig. 111.

Eduard Plietzsch. "Gabriel Metsu." Pantheon 17 (January 1936), p. 9, ill.

Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941, unpaginated, no. 212, ill.

M[argaretta]. S[alinger]. "Notes on the Cover." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 2 (May 1944), p. 248, ill. on cover (color detail) and p. 248.

Millia Davenport. The Book of Costume. New York, 1948, vol. 2, p. 619, no. 1646, ill. (cropped).

H[orst]. Gerson. De Nederlandse schilderkunst. Vol. 2, Het tijdperk van Rembrandt en Vermeer. Amsterdam, 1952, p. 35, fig. 99.

S[turla]. J. Gudlaugsson. Gerard ter Borch. The Hague, 1959–60, vol. 2, p. 148, under no. 139.

Clara Bille. De Tempel der Kunst of het Kabinet van den Heer Braamcamp. Amsterdam, 1961, vol. 1, ill. after p. 252, cat. 124; vol. 2, pp. 29–30, 104, no. 124.

S[turla]. J. Gudlaugsson. "Kanttekeningen bij de ontwikkeling van Metsu." Oud-Holland 83, no. 1 (1968), pp. 14, 30.

Uwe M. Schneede. "Gabriel Metsu und der holländische Realismus." Oud-Holland 83, no. 1 (1968), pp. 47, 50, figs. 1, 3 (detail of signature).

Franklin W. Robinson. "Gabriel Metsu, 1629–1667." PhD diss., Harvard University, 1970, pp. 123–25, 129, 132, 158, 213 n. 92, fig. 141.

Franklin W. Robinson. Gabriel Metsu (1629–1667): A Study of His Place in Dutch Genre Painting of the Golden Age. New York, 1974, pp. 52–56, 59, 65, 79 n. 59, p. 83 n. 94, fig. 130.

John Walsh Jr. "The Dutch Marine Painters Jan and Julius Porcelis—I: Jan's Early Career." Burlington Magazine 116 (November 1974), p. 657 n. 21.

W. J. C. Buitendijk. Jan Vos, Toneelwerken: Aran en Titus, Oene, Medea. Assen, The Netherlands, 1975, p. 27 n. 1.

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. "Review of Robinson 1974." Art Bulletin 58 (September 1976), p. 458.

Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 342, 344, fig. 619 (color).

Peter C. Sutton. Pieter de Hooch. Ithaca, N.Y., 1980, pp. 30–31, fig. 27.

Franklin W. Robinson. Gabriel Metsu: The Letter. San Diego, 1985, unpaginated, fig. 8.

Joaneath Spicer. "An Experiment with Perspective by Gabriel Metsu." Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 51, no. 4 (1988), pp. 577, 579, fig. 6.

Lawrence Otto Goedde. Tempest and Shipwreck in Dutch and Flemish Art: Convention, Rhetoric, and Interpretation. University Park, Pa., 1989, pp. 156, 238 n. 97, fig. 114.

Walter Liedtke. "Dutch Paintings in America: The Collectors and Their Ideals." Great Dutch Paintings from America. Exh. cat., Mauritshuis, The Hague. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 1990, p. 40.

Ivan Gaskell. The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection: Seventeenth Century Dutch and Flemish Painting. London, 1990, pp. 288–89.

Gregor J. M. Weber. Der Lobtopos des "lebenden" Bildes: Jan Vos und sein "Zeege der Schilderkunst" von 1654. Hildesheim, 1991, p. 12 n. 10, pp. 173–74, 210, pl. 21, reprints Vos's poem "Op de Schildery" and translates it into German [see Ref. Vos 1662].

Wayne E. Franits. Paragons of Virtue: Women and Domesticity in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art. Cambridge, 1993, p. 227 n. 16, states incorrectly that Vos's poem "Op de Schildery" was not included in the 1662 edition of Vos's collected works [see Ref. Vos 1662].

Sylvia Jäkel-Scheglmann. Zum Lobe der Frauen: Untersuchungen zum Bild der Frau in der niederländischen Genremalerei des 17. Jahrhunderts. Munich, 1994, p. 52, fig. 27.

Irene Groeneweg. "Regenten in het zwart: vroom en deftig?" Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 46 (1995), p. 203, fig. 5.

Lyckle de Vries in Jan Steen: Painter and Storyteller. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1996, p. 73.

S. A. C. Dudok van Heel. "Een opmerkelijke dikzak, 'Jan Hinlopen door Bartholomeus van der Helst'." Amstelodamum 83 (1996), p. 165.

Peter C. Sutton in The Royal Palace of Amsterdam in Paintings of the Golden Age. Exh. cat., Royal Palace, Amsterdam. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 1997, pp. 27–29, repeats Franits's [see Ref. 1993] error, stating that Vos's poem was not included in the 1662 edition of his collected works.

Eymert-Jan Goossens in The Royal Palace of Amsterdam in Paintings of the Golden Age. Exh. cat., Royal Palace, Amsterdam. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 1997, pp. 77–79, no. 20, ill. (color).

Peter C. Sutton. Pieter de Hooch, 1629–1684. Exh. cat., Dulwich Picture Gallery, London. Hartford, 1998, pp. 142, 144, fig. 1, under no. 26, suggests that it may depict the family of Jan Jacobsz. Hinloopen.

Judith van Gent. "Portretten van Jan Jacobsz Hinlopen en zijn familie door Gabriël Metsu en Bartholomeus van der Helst." Oud-Holland 112, no. 2/3 (1998), pp. 127, 130–31, 134–35 nn. 20–22, fig. 2.

Jean Strouse. Morgan: American Financier. New York, 1999, p. 568, states that Morgan acquired it from Duveen in the summer of 1907.

Jean Strouse. "J. Pierpont Morgan, Financier and Collector." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 57 (Winter 2000), p. 31, fig. 34 (color).

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. in The Public and the Private in the Age of Vermeer. Exh. cat., Osaka Municipal Museum of Art. London, 2000, pp. 18, 21 n. 11, pp. 44, 152–55, no. 26, ill. in color pp. 153, 155 (detail), and fig. 11.

Daniëlle H. A. C. Lokin in The Public and the Private in the Age of Vermeer. Exh. cat., Osaka Municipal Museum of Art. London, 2000, p. 38.

Peter C. Sutton in Love Letters: Dutch Genre Paintings in the Age of Vermeer. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin. Greenwich, Conn., 2003, p. 134, fig. 1, under no. 20.

Wayne Franits. Dutch Seventeenth-Century Genre Painting: Its Stylistic and Thematic Evolution. New Haven, 2004, pp. 183–85, 233, 290 nn. 46, 49, 50, 53, fig. 170.

Esmée Quodbach. "'Rembrandt's "Gilder" is here': How America Got its First Rembrandt and France Lost Many of its Old Masters." Simiolus 31, no. 1/2 (2004), p. 96.

Walter Liedtke. "Gerard de Lairesse and Jacob de Wit 'in situ'." The Learned Eye: Regarding Art, Theory, and the Artist's Reputation: Essays for Ernst van de Wetering. Ed. Marieke van den Doel et al. Amsterdam, 2005, pp. 191–92, 202 n. 8, fig. 1.

Kees Zandvliet. De 250 rijksten van de Gouden Eeuw: Kapitaal, macht, familie en levensstijl. Amsterdam, 2006, p. 345, ill. (color).

Esmée Quodbach. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Summer 2007), pp. 12, 35, 37, fig. 42 (color).

Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. 76, 463–69, 502, no. 118 colorpl. 118; vol. 2, p. 796.

Daniëlle H. A. C. Lokin in Vermeer: la ragazza alla spinetta e i pittori di Delft. Ed. Bert W. Meijer. Exh. cat., Foro Boario. Florence, 2007, p. 43, fig. 11 (color).

Eddy Schavemaker. Eglon van der Neer (1635/36–1703): His Life and His Work. Doornspijk, The Netherlands, 2010, pp. 39, 458, fig. 6 of chapter 2, fig. 19a.

Marjorie E. Wieseman. Vermeer's Women: Secrets and Silence. Exh. cat., Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. New Haven, 2011, pp. 41–42, 62 n. 68, colorpl. 24.

Gerbrand Korevaar. "Willem Joseph Laquy Copies Gerrit Dou, ' . . . of very great service in the further shaping of his knowledge and taste'." Rijksmuseum Bulletin 59, no. 2 (2011), pp. 146–47, 150 nn. 38–40, fig. 14 (color).

Jennifer Tonkovich. "Discovering the Renaissance: Pierpont Morgan's Shift to Collecting Italian Old Masters." A Market for Merchant Princes: Collecting Italian Renaissance Paintings in America. Ed. Inge Reist. University Park, Pa., 2015, p. 120 n. 19.

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