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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Gabriel Metsu

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GABRIEL METSU (1630-1667), Dutch painter, was the son of Jacob Metsu, who lived most of his days at Leiden, where he was three times married. The last of these marriages was celebrated in 1625, and Jacomma Garnijers, herself the widow of a painter, gave birth to Gabriel in 1630. According to Houbraken Metsu was taught by Gerard Dow, though his early works do not lend colour to this assertion. It is certain, however, that he was influenced in turn by Jan Steen, Rembrandt, and Hals. Metsu was registered among the first members of the painters' corporation at Leiden; and the books of the gild also tell us that he remained a member in 1649. In 1650 he ceased to subscribe, and works bearing his name and the date of 1653 give countenance to the belief that he had then settled at Amsterdam, where he probably continued his studies under Rembrandt. One of his earliest pictures is the " Lazarus " at the Strassburg Museum, painted under the influence of Jan Steen. Under the influence of Rembrandt he produced the " Woman taken in Adultery," a large picture with the date of 1653 in the Louvre. To the same period belong the " Departure of Hagar," formerly in the Thore collection, and the " Widow's Mite " at the Schwerin Gallery. But he probably observed that sacred art was ill suited to his temper, or he found the field too strongly occupied, and turned to other subjects for which he was better fitted. That at one time he was deeply impressed by the vivacity and bold technique of Frans Hals can be gathered from Lord Lonsdale's picture of " Women at a Fishmonger's Shop." What Metsu undertook and carried out from the first with surprising success was the low life of the market and tavern, contrasted, with wonderful versatility, by incidents of high life and the drawing-room. In no single instance do the artistic lessons of Rembrandt appear to have been lost upon him. The same principles of light and shade which had marked his schoolwork in the " Woman taken in Adultery " were applied to subjects of quite a different kind. A group in a drawing-room, a series of groups in the marketplace, or a single figure in the gloom of a tavern or parlour, was treated with the utmost felicity by fit concentration and gradation of light, a warm flush of tone pervading every part, and, with that, the study of texture in stuffs was carried as far as it had been by Ter Borch or Dow, if not with the finish or the brio of De Hooch.

Metsu went to Amsterdam before 16J5, married in 1658, and became a citizen of that city in 1659. One of the best pictures of Metsu's manhood is the " Market-place of Amsterdam," at the Louvre, respecting which it is difficult to distribute praise in fair proportions, so excellent are the various parts, the characteristic movement and action of the dramatis personae, the selection of faces, the expression and the gesture, and the texture of the things depicted. Equally fine, though earlier, are the " Sportsman " (dated 1661) and the " Tavern " (also 1661) at the Hague and Dresden Museums, and the " Game-Dealer's Shop," also at Dresden, with the painter's signature and 1662. Among the five examples of the painter at the Wallace Collection, including " The Tabby Cat," " The Sleeping Sportsman," which cost Lord Hertford X3000, is an admirable example technically considered. Among his finest representations of home life are the " Repast " at the Hermitage in St Petersburg; the " Mother nursing her Sick Child " of the Steengracht Gallery at the Hague; the Amateur Musicians " at the Hague Gallery; the " Duet " and the " Music Lesson " at the National Gallery, and many more examples at nearly all the leading European galleries.

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Gabriel Metsu'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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