Exhibitions/ Art Object

A Musical Party

Gerbrand van den Eeckhout (Dutch, Amsterdam 1621–1674 Amsterdam)
early 1650s
Oil on canvas
20 x 24 1/2 in. (50.8 x 62.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Annie C. Kane, 1926
Accession Number:
Not on view
Although entirely typical of Van den Eeckhout in the early 1650s, this painting was given to The Met as a work by the Amsterdam genre painter Barent Graat (1628–1709), and was earlier considered to be by Pieter de Hooch. Both artists set similar figures on terraces, Graat as early as 1652, and De Hooch not until the 1660s. Van den Eeckhout has long been a familiar figure as a Rembrandtesque history painter (see Isaac Blessing Jacob, 25.110.16), but his important contribution to scenes of modern society was generally overlooked until the 1960s. Valentiner must have known the artist's A Party on a Terrace of 1652 (Worcester Art Museum) or a similar work when he suggested in 1930 (unpublished opinion in departmental files) that the New York picture was actually by Van den Eeckhout.

The painting shows five stylish young people socializing on the garden terrace of an impressive country house, to judge from the scale of the columns and the extent of the trees. A servant stands to the left, looking in the direction of the couple singing from a songbook (the woman keeps time with her hand). Another songbook lies open on the table. The man in the background gestures to his heart, to which his lovely companion seems to be respond somewhat stiffly(she holds a fan, which can indicate a cool reception). Van den Eeckhout made just such an encounter the main motif of the painting in Worcester, where couples in the background appear to be further along in their courtships. The main figure here probably feels that he has much to offer a young woman, given his especially chic attire and the fashionable attribute of a greyhound (which implies hunting). The empty chair to the right, although quite an elegant piece of furniture, offers little hope of pleasure to a dandy cast in the role of fifth wheel. The young man's body language is both natural and symbolic, the pose of someone spending too much time watching other people enjoy themselves and of figures in art (going back at least to Dürer's famous engraving of the subject) that stand for melancholia.

It has often been observed that the pictures of buitenpartijen (alfresco parties) and gezelschapjes (Merry Companies) painted by Van den Eeckhout, Jacob van Loo (1614–1670), and other Dutch artists in the 1650s and 1660s brought an earlier type of composition up-to-date, namely, the scenes of wining, dining, making music, and musing about making love that were often set on palatial terraces and on the grounds of grand estates by such painters as David Vinckboons, Esaias van de Velde (1587–1630), and Willem Buytewech (1591/92–1624). Like Gerard ter Borch, if not so consistently, Van den Eeckhout brought to this genre an eye for how people hold themselves and behave in social situations. He also modernized his Rembrandtesque style, so that the play of light and shadow not only brings out the key protagonists but also suggests mood and other qualities, in this case a physical intimacy similar to that found in his contemporaneous pictures of courtship set indoors (in particular, the Musical Company of 1653 in the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, and the Interior with a Singing Couple and a Listener of 1655, in the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen). The composition is also very much of the 1650s, with its triangular grouping of figures, vertical elements, and nearly parallel arms and legs. Unfortunately, the appeal of the picture has been much diminished by darkening with age and abrasion.

[2016; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Annie C. Kane, New York (by 1923–d. 1926)
Amsterdam. Frederik Muller & Cie. "Maîtres hollandais du XVIIe siècle," July 10–September 15, 1906, no. 65 (as by Pieter de Hooch).

Pensacola, Fla. Pensacola Art Center. "Opening exhibition," October 26–November 30, 1955, no catalogue.

Jacksonville, Fla. Jacksonville Art Museum. December 15, 1955–January 30, 1956, no catalogue.

Raleigh. North Carolina Museum of Art. "Rembrandt and His Pupils," November 16–December 30, 1956, no. 26 (of pupils; as "Social Gathering in a Loggia").

Westport, Conn. Westport Community Art Association. "Music in Art," March 25–April 13, 1963, no catalogue?

St. Petersburg, Fla. Museum of Fine Arts. "Dutch Life in the Golden Century," January 21–March 2, 1975, no. 21.

Atlanta. High Museum of Art. "Dutch Life in the Golden Century," April 4–May 4, 1975, no. 21.

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.

F. Schmidt-Degener. Letter to Harry B. Wehle. November 16, 1931, judging from a photograph, tentatively attributes the picture to Eeckhout.

W. R. Valentiner. Rembrandt and His Pupils. Exh. cat., North Carolina Museum of Art. Raleigh, 1956, p. 117, no. 26, ill., mentions "a similar composition, signed and dated 1652, formerly in the collection of Langton R. Douglas, New York" (now Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Mass.).

R. Roy. "Studien zu Gerbrand van den Eeckhout." PhD diss., Universität Wien, 1972, p. 232, no. 141 [see Ref. Sumowski 1983–94], tentatively dates it to the mid-1650s.

Franklin W. Robinson. Dutch Life in the Golden Century. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Fla. St. Petersburg, Fla., 1975, pp. 34–35, no. 21, ill., dates it to the early 1650s, but also notes that the costume of the man sitting at left indicates a date in the late 1650s.

Werner Sumowski. Drawings of the Rembrandt School. Ed. Walter L. Strauss. Vol. 4, New York, 1981, p. 1796, under no. 825x.

Werner Sumowski. Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler. Vol. 2, G. van den Eeckhout–I. de Joudreville. Landau/Pfalz, 1983–[94?], p. 747, no. 507, ill. p. 870, dates it about 1652–55.

Peter C. Sutton in Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting. Exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia, 1984, p. 201, fig. 2, under no. 43, relates it to the painting in Worcester.

Wayne E. Franits. Paragons of Virtue: Women and Domesticity in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art. Cambridge, 1993, pp. 44, 208 n. 89, fig. 29, interprets the gesture of the man sitting with his head in his hand as indicating melancholy caused by unrequited love.

Walter Liedtke in Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Aspects of Connoisseurship. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, "Paintings, Drawings, and Prints: Art-Historical Perspectives."New York, [1995], pp. 22, 145, under no. 47.

V[olker]. Manuth in Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon: die bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker. Vol. 32, Munich, 2002, pp. 234, 236.

Wayne Franits. Dutch Seventeenth-Century Genre Painting: Its Stylistic and Thematic Evolution. New Haven, 2004, pp. 179, 289 n. 23, fig. 163.

Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. 185, 190–92, 360, no. 43, colorpl. 43; vol. 2, p. 844, calls it "entirely typical of Van den Eeckhout in the early 1650s".

Adriaan E. Waiboer in Vermeer et les maîtres de la peinture de genre. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2017, p. 406, fig. 128 (color).

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