Geraert ter Borch
(Zwolle, 1617-1681, Deventer)
The Visit, ca. 1660
Oil on canvas, 91.5 x 103 cm
Gudlaugsson 149
The setting is one of those rooms that one can still walk into in Dutch historical museums or old houses: of modest size and height, dark and lined with blue-and-gold printed leather. Left, a fireplace of brown and white stone, of classical design, right, an opened, wallpapered door that seems greatly shortened. The plain scrubbed floorboards contrast strikingly with the sumptuousness of the walls. Right, a cavalier enters. He is clad in black, white and gold, and he has raised his hands in respectful greeting. Precisely at the central axis of the picture, the lady goes to meet him, a magic apparition from ter Borch’s treasury of silver and glistening trimmings; behind her, in deep-blue counterpoint, her upholstered chair. Her arms signify quiet joy and restrained surprise, as she greets him. She is contrasted with the red, blue an white of the second lady: fan in her hands, her feet on the foot-warmer, her attention wavering between the brown-and-white gentleman talking to her and the splendid couple. Finally, a servant with a glass of heavy dark wine. The light descends from in front, and confirms the impression that here refined domesticity is being played at. The dimensions are unusually large for ter Borch. The costumes and the style of the painting and the broad composition all point to around 1660. Paintings like these show very clearly the refinement, the almost courtly attitude of the Dutch rich bourgeois, for whom the simple beginnings of their state were but a memory. France had become the model for artist and client; this picture too strives for French grace, perhaps slightly ironically.