Interior Space


Interior with a Woman Playing a Virginal
Emmanuel de Witte

I am captivated by the Witold Rybczynski’s Home, A Short History of an Idea.  I just finished a chapter about the influence of the Dutch borgeois in the 1600s, illustrated by this painting.  Rybczynski obviously loves words; he frequently stops and explains etymology. 

The wonderful word, “home” which connotes a
physical “place”
but also has the more abstract
sense of a “state of being,”
has no equivalent in
the Latin or Slavic European languages. 
German,
Danish, Swedish, Icelandic, Dutch and English
all
have similar sounding words for “home,”
all
derived from the Old Norse “heima.” p. 62

The Dutch loved their homes. …
“Home” meant the house, but also everything
that was in it and around it, as well as the people,
and the sense of satisfaction and contentment
that all these conveyed. You could walk out of
the house, but you always returned home. p. 62

Some background notes on the Netherlands:  The Dutch were predominantly townspeople who valued moderation, hard work, thrift and cleanliness.  Land reclaimed from the sea was valuable: the narrow lots were usually one room wide.  Windows were placed on exterior walls in order to lighten the load on the foundation pilings. 

The rooms are illuminated to emphasize their depth
and distance,
as well as their physical, material
reality.
It is above all this sense of interior space,
and hence of insideness, that distinguishes this
painting.
Instead of being a picture of a room,
it is a picture of a home. p.70
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8 thoughts on “Interior Space

  1. Neat perspective, too!  I’m guessing that’s a large armoir behind the *maid*?
    And now I’m off to investigate why the instrument is called a *virginal*
    Blessings fm GA,Dana

  2. The woman at the virginal (harpsichord, probably called virginal because women were the ones playing the harpsichord) is thought to be the mistress of the home.I like the perspective, too.

  3. Oh, I love this painting…its speaks peace to me.  It is interesting that the virginal is in the same room with what looks like a bed.  I always thought they were in a parlor or other “entertaining” type room.I love it when people share paintings on their blogs.  Thanks

  4. Ed is in Vermeer country right now. Vermeer has always been one of my favorites. de Witte shares the same tones and perspective. Beautiful observation about the Dutch and where they live. The little village my great grandmother lived in had canals on every other street. Oh Carol, how you would love it! IT is so you! Blessings and love, m in sc

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