One of Van Brekelenkam's finest works, this painting dates from the early 1660s. There appears no reason to doubt the authenticity of the "QB" in monogram to the lower right, on the stretcher of the table.
The popular subject is presented as if it were based on direct observation, which the figures may well have been, and employs familiar conventions of depicting courtship. The couple have played or will play a duet—he on the violin, she on the lute that lies on the table. To the right of the upper windows, the shadowy form of a birdcage floats in front of the window moldings. This routine reference to virginity was taken out by overpainting, which has become transparent with time. The rugged landscape, very much in the style of Allart van Everdingen (1621–1675), remains the only symbolic reference to the progress of love, which can resemble a rocky road. But here, the wayfarer on a steep path, seen between the heads of the courting couple, intimates that they have chosen the more difficult path of virtue.
The painter depicted a similarly posed young woman a number of times, although never so successfully as here. The closest resemblance to both figures is that found in a picture last seen on the art market in the 1930s, A Couple in Conversation, with a Sleeping Man and a Maid Nearby. Women with different features but approximately the same pose, and seen from the same angle, are found in paintings in the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig, and elsewhere (Liedtke 2007). Two of these pictures are dated 1662 and support a similar date for the MMA panel, where the composition is also typical of about 1661–62. The superior quality and stronger individualization of this work suggests that it precedes the others.
[2011; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Lady Wantage, Lockinge, London; E. A. Leatham, Miserden Park, Cirencester, Gloucestershire (in 1868); [Sir George Donaldson, London]; August de Ridder, Schönberg, near Cronberg in the Taunus (until d. 1911; cat., 1913, pl. 27; on loan to the Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt, in 1913; sale of his sequestered property, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, June 2, 1924, no. 7, as "L'entretien galant," for Fr 205,000 to Kleinberger); [Kleinberger, Paris and New York, 1924; sold to Friedsam]; Michael Friedsam, New York (1924–d. 1931)
Leeds City Museum. "National Exhibition of Works of Art," 1868, no. 574 (as "A Conversation Piece," lent by E. A. Leatham).
New York. F. Kleinberger Galleries. "The Collection of Pictures of the Late Herr A. de Ridder," November 24–December 15, 1913, no. 27 (as "A Young Couple, Taking Wine Together").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Michael Friedsam Collection," November 15, 1932–April 9, 1933, no catalogue.
Kansas City, Mo. Nelson Gallery of Art and Atkins Museum. "Paintings of 17th Century Dutch Interiors," December 1, 1967–January 7, 1968, no. 2.
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.
Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art. "Communication: Visualizing the Human Connection in the Age of Vermeer," June 25–October 16, 2011, no. 9.
Sendai. Miyagi Museum of Art. "Communication: Visualizing the Human Connection in the Age of Vermeer," October 27–December 12, 2011, no. 9.
Tokyo. Bunkamura Museum of Art. "Communication: Visualizing the Human Connection in the Age of Vermeer," December 23, 2011–March 14, 2012, no. 9.
Rome. Scuderie del Quirinale. "Vermeer: il secolo d'oro dell'arte olandese," September 27, 2012–January 20, 2013, no. 5.
Paris. Musée du Louvre. "Vermeer et les maîtres de la peinture de genre," February 22–May 22, 2017, no. 80.
Dublin. National Gallery of Ireland. "Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry," June 17–September 17, 2017, no. 80.
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry," October 22, 2017–January 21, 2018, no. 80.
Wilhelm von Bode. The Collection of Pictures of the late Herr A. de Ridder in his Villa at Schönberg near Cronberg in the Taunus. Berlin, 1913, p. 9, pl. 27 [catalogue section unpaginated], calls it "The Interrupted Music-lesson" in text and "A Young Couple, Taking Wine Together" in catalogue; dates it to the artist's later period and calls it one of his best works, very close to Metsu; notes that the landscape on the back wall seems to be by Everdingen; adds that the work is signed with a monogram.
Wilhelm R. Valentiner in The Michael Friedsam Collection. [completed 1928], p. 16, as "The Entertaining Suitor".
"Friedsam Bequest to be Exhibited Next November." Art News 30 (January 2, 1932), p. 13, prints Bryson Burroughs's survey of the Friedsam paintings.
Millia Davenport. The Book of Costume. New York, 1948, vol. 2, p. 626, no. 1665, ill. (cropped).
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 12.
Wolfgang Stechow. "Landscape Paintings in Dutch Seventeenth Century Interiors." Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 11 (1960), p. 177 n. 27, notes that a version of the same landscape is included in Brekelenkam's "Proposal" (Suermondt Museum, Aachen).
Horst Vey. "Johann Peter Weyer, seine Gemäldesammlung und seine Kunstliebe." Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch 28 (1966), p. 234, no. 188, ill. (engraving), as in the collection of Johann Peter Weyer, Cologne, in 1852, as by Metsu.
Ralph T. Coe. Paintings of 17th Century Dutch Interiors. Exh. cat., Nelson Gallery of Art and Atkins Museum. Kansas City, Mo., 1967, pp. 12, 20–21, no. 2, ill., notes the influence of Vermeer and Dou.
Peter C. Sutton. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1986, p. 187.
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. 52.
Walter Liedtke. "Vermeer sin egen läromästare." Rembrandt och hans Tid: Människan i Centrum. Exh. cat., Nationalmuseum. Stockholm, 1992, p. 104 n. 12 [reprinted in Wayne E. Franits, ed., "The Cambridge Companion to Vermeer," Cambridge, 2001, p. 189 n. 12], compares the man's pose to that of the male figure in Vermeer's "Cavalier and Young Woman" (Frick Collection, New York).
Angelika Lasius. Quiringh van Brekelenkam. Doornspijk, The Netherlands, 1992, pp. 47, 50, 64, 133, 144, no. 223, colorpl. XI, calls it "Gallant Conversation" and dates it about 1663; identifies the male figure as a young officer and states that "in the seventeenth century the violin was used only for popular entertainment and thus suggested moral laxity"; notes that Brekelenkam included variations of the landscape painting seen here in many paintings of the 1660s.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 327, ill.
Wayne Franits. Dutch Seventeenth-Century Genre Painting: Its Stylistic and Thematic Evolution. New Haven, 2004, pp. 132, 134, 281 n. 123, fig. 119 (color).
Thomas Fusenig with the assistance of Christine Vogt. Bestandskatalog der Gemäldegalerie: Niederlande von 1550 bis 1800. Munich, 2006, p. 50, note a similar landscape painting in the background of a genre scene by Brekelenkam in Aachen.
Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. x, 101, 104–7, no. 24, colorpl. 24; vol. 2, p. 743, dates it to the early 1660s.
Alexandra B. Libby in Human Connections in the Age of Vermeer. Exh. cat., Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art. Tokyo, 2011, pp. 57–59, no. 9, ill. (color).
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. Human Connections in the Age of Vermeer. Exh. cat., Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art. Tokyo, 2011, p. 20, fig. 9 (color).
Daniëlle H. A. C. Lokin in Human Connections in the Age of Vermeer. Exh. cat., Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art. Tokyo, 2011, p. 28.
Walter Liedtke in Vermeer: il secolo d'oro dell'arte olandese. Exh. cat., Scuderie del Quirinale. Milan, 2012, pp. 74.
Adriaan E. Waiboer in Vermeer et les maîtres de la peinture de genre. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2017, pp. 405–8, p. 419, no. 80, ill. pp. 400–401 (detail), 401, 404 (color).
Marjorie E. Wieseman in Vermeer et les maîtres de la peinture de genre. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2017, p. 112 n. 27.