A Kitchen, ca. 1643
Hendrick Sorgh (Dutch, 1609/11–1670)
Oil on wood; 20 1/2 x 17 3/8 in. (52.1 x 44.1 cm)
Marquand Collection, Gift of Henry G. Marquand, 1889 (89.15.7)
Sorgh spent his entire life in Rotterdam, where his father, Maerten Rochusse, ran a ferry service and handled freight with such care (sorgh) that he was given that nickname. Like other Rotterdam genre painters, Sorgh was influenced by the popular Flemish artist David Teniers the Younger (1610–1690). This thinly painted and somewhat worn panel dates from about 1643 and anticipates some aspects of Vermeer's domestic interiors, such as the abrupt recession from the left. The Delft artist achieves a more naturalistic effect by bringing the viewer in much closer to the scene, and through his more sophisticated study of daylight (although Sorgh's still-life motifs are impressive in this regard).
In an earlier state of the composition, a young man entered from the right, apparently with a basket of fish for sale. As in other works by Sorgh, the offer was probably an erotic metaphor, and the original reason for the kitchen maids' expressions (compare the faces of Vermeer's "milkmaid" and "maid asleep") and for the amusement of the awkwardly placed couple in the background (now barely noticeable between the maids).