The Procuress (Dirck van Baburen)

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The Procuress
Dirck van Baburen - The Procuress - Google Art Project.jpg
Artist Dirck van Baburen
Yearc. 1622
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions101.6 cm× 107.6 cm(40.0 in× 42.4 in)
Location Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The Procuress is the name given to a number of similar paintings by the Dutch Golden Age painter Dirck van Baburen. The painting is in the Caravaggiesque style of the Utrecht school.

Dutch Golden Age painting

Dutch Golden Age painting is the painting of the Dutch Golden Age, a period in Dutch history roughly spanning the 17th century, during and after the later part of the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) for Dutch independence.

Dirck van Baburen Dutch painter

Dirck Jaspersz. van Baburen was a Dutch painter and one of the Utrecht Caravaggisti.

Caravaggio 16th and 17th-century Italian painter

Michelangelo Merisida Caravaggio was an Italian painter active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily from the early 1590s to 1610. His paintings combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, which had a formative influence on Baroque painting.



The painting shows three figures, a prostitute on the left, the client in the middle and the procuress on the right pointing to her palm to indicate that she is expecting payment. The client is holding a coin between his fingers as he puts his arm around the prostitute, who is playing a lute. The painting is an example of the popular genre known as Bordeeltjes, or brothel scenes (see also the overlapping genre of Merry company scenes). [1] The cropped, close-up figures close to the picture plane against a flat blank background are typical of Utrecht Caravaggism. [2]

Lute musical instrument

A lute is any plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back enclosing a hollow cavity, usually with a sound hole or opening in the body. More specifically, the term "lute" can refer to an instrument from the family of European lutes. The term also refers generally to any string instrument having the strings running in a plane parallel to the sound table. The strings are attached to pegs or posts at the end of the neck, which have some type of turning mechanism to enable the player to tighten the tension on the string or loosen the tension before playing, so that each string is tuned to a specific pitch. The lute is plucked or strummed with one hand while the other hand "frets" the strings on the neck's fingerboard. By pressing the strings on different places of the fingerboard, the player can shorten or lengthen the part of the string that is vibrating, thus producing higher or lower pitches (notes).

Merry company term in art history for a painting showing a small group of people enjoying themselves

Merry company is the term in art history for a painting, usually from the 17th century, showing a small group of people enjoying themselves, usually seated with drinks, and often music-making. These scenes are a very common type of genre painting of the Dutch Golden Age and Flemish Baroque; it is estimated that nearly two thirds of Dutch genre scenes show people drinking.

Picture plane

In painting, photography, graphical perspective and descriptive geometry, a picture plane is an image plane located between the "eye point" and the object being viewed and is usually coextensive to the material surface of the work. It is ordinarily a vertical plane perpendicular to the sightline to the object of interest.

There are at least three versions of the painting. The versions in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam [3] and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston [4] are attributed to Dirck van Baburen or his studio. One copy of the painting was owned by Maria Thins, mother-in-law of Johannes Vermeer, who reproduced it in the background of two of his own paintings. A copy owned by the Courtauld Institute in London has been identified as the work of the forger Han van Meegeren. This was featured in the third episode of the BBC TV series, Fake or Fortune? . [5]

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Art museum in Boston, MA

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, is the fifth largest museum in the United States. It contains more than 450,000 works of art, making it one of the most comprehensive collections in the Americas. With more than one million visitors a year, it is the 60th most-visited art museum in the world as of 2017.

Maria Thins was the mother-in-law of Johannes Vermeer and a member of the Gouda Thins family.

Johannes Vermeer 17th-century Dutch painter

Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch Baroque Period painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life. He was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime but evidently was not wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death, perhaps because he produced relatively few paintings.


Vermeer's The Concert in which The Procuress hangs on the wall at the upper right Vermeer The concert.JPG
Vermeer's The Concert in which The Procuress hangs on the wall at the upper right
Vermeer's Lady Seated at a Virginal, in which The Procuress hangs on the wall behind the figure Johannes Vermeer - Zittende Klavecimbelspeelster (1673-1675).jpg
Vermeer's Lady Seated at a Virginal , in which The Procuress hangs on the wall behind the figure

One of these paintings was owned by Vermeer's mother-in-law, and it may have been an influence on one of his own early paintings on a similar subject, also known as The Procuress (1656). [2] It also appears in the background of two of Vermeer's later paintings, The Concert (c.1664) and Lady Seated at a Virginal (c.1670). In both of these later paintings the blatant lust depicted by Baburen is contrasted with the genteel, but erotically charged, middle-class world occupied by Vermeer's women. The contrast between the images may also imply "a more general association between music and love". [6] Vermeer sets up a series of contrasts between his own delicate, restrained style and Baburen's vulgar realism. According to Michael Wayne Cole and Mary Pardo this represents Vermeer's own move away from such low-life subjects. The older, cruder style of Baburen is relegated to the background, "eclipsing it with the more modern kind of genteel subject that Vermeer would soon paint exclusively". [7]

<i>The Procuress</i> (Vermeer) painting by Johannes Vermeer

The Procuress is a 1656 oil-on-canvas painting by the 24-year-old Johannes Vermeer. It can be seen in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden. It is his first genre painting and shows a scene of contemporary life, an image of mercenary love perhaps in a brothel. It differs from his earlier biblical and mythological scenes. It is one of only three paintings Vermeer signed and dated.

<i>The Concert</i> (Vermeer) stolen painting by Johannes Vermeer

The Concert is a painting by Dutchman Johannes Vermeer depicting a man and two women performing music. It belonged to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, but was stolen in 1990 and remains missing.

<i>Lady Seated at a Virginal</i> painting by Johannes Vermeer

Lady Seated at a Virginal, also known as Young Woman Seated at a Virginal, is a genre painting created by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer in about 1670–72 and now in the National Gallery, London.

The Courtauld Institute version

The Courtauld Institute copy, believed to be a van Meegeren forgery The Procuress forgery by Han van Meegeren from the Courtauld Gallery.jpg
The Courtauld Institute copy, believed to be a van Meegeren forgery

In 1960, Geoffrey Webb presented a version of the painting to the Courtauld Institute. At the end of the Second World War, he had been an allied officer in Europe investigating art works looted by the Nazis. He believed it was a fake painted by Han van Meegeren, and he presented it to the Courtauld as such. In his own defense, van Meegeren claimed that the painting had been bought in an antique shop by his wife. [8] Although the painting was initially believed to be a fake, its authenticity remained controversial, and in 2009 a scientific study indicated that the painting was likely to be genuine, as no modern pigments were found. A spokesperson for the gallery stated that they were "surprised" by the results, but that the evidence indicated that it was "likely to be a 17th-century painting". [9]

Geoffrey Fairbank Webb (1898–1970) was a British art historian, Slade Professor of Fine Art and head of the Monuments and Fine Arts section of the Allied Control Commission during World War II.

Han van Meegeren Dutch painter and art forger

Henricus Antonius "Han" van Meegeren was a Dutch painter and portraitist and is considered to be one of the most ingenious art forgers of the 20th century. Despite his life of crime, van Meegeren became a national hero after World War II when it was revealed that he had sold a forged painting to Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

Following this, the BBC TV programme Fake or Fortune? conducted a further investigation. [5] The resulting film was first shown July 2011. [5] Philip Mould and Fiona Bruce traveled to Amsterdam where they obtained samples of the paints used by van Meegeren. [5] These included an artificial resin which turned out to be Bakelite. [5] The use of Bakelite had the effect of hardening the paint and thus making it difficult to detect that it was new. [5] Chemical analysis showed Bakelite in the Courtauld painting, thus confirming that it was a modern forgery. [5] Van Meegeren is the only forger known to have used this technique, so the painting was attributed to him. [5] It was probably intended to be used as a prop in Vermeer forgeries. [5] It is more valuable as a van Meegeren forgery than as a 17th-century studio copy. [5]

Philip Mould English art dealer and art historian

Philip Jonathan Clifford Mould OBE is an English art dealer, writer and broadcaster. He has made a number of major art discoveries, including some of Thomas Gainsborough's earliest known works, the only known portrait of Arthur, Prince of Wales and a number of lost works by Sir Anthony Van Dyck.

Fiona Bruce British television producer, newsreader, presenter

Fiona Elizabeth Bruce is a British journalist, newsreader and television presenter. Since joining the BBC as a researcher on Panorama in 1989, she has gone on to become the first female newsreader on the BBC News at Ten as well as presenting many flagship programmes for the corporation including BBC News at Six, Crimewatch, Real Story, Antiques Roadshow, and Fake or Fortune?. Since 10 January 2019 she is also the presenter of the BBC One television programme Question Time.

Bakelite early plastic

Bakelite or polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride was the first plastic made from synthetic components. It is a thermosetting phenol formaldehyde resin, formed from a condensation reaction of phenol with formaldehyde. It was developed by the Belgian-American chemist Leo Baekeland in Yonkers, New York, in 1907.

See also

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Forgery is a white-collar crime that generally refers to the false making or material alteration of a legal instrument with the specific intent to defraud anyone. Tampering with a certain legal instrument may be forbidden by law in some jurisdictions but such an offense is not related to forgery unless the tampered legal instrument was actually used in the course of the crime to defraud another person or entity. Copies, studio replicas, and reproductions are not considered forgeries, though they may later become forgeries through knowing and willful misrepresentations.

Art forgery

Art forgery is the creating and selling of works of art which are falsely credited to other, usually more famous artists. Art forgery can be extremely lucrative, but modern dating and analysis techniques have made the identification of forged artwork much simpler.

A Question of Attribution is a 1988 one-act stage play, written by Alan Bennett. It was premièred at the National Theatre, London, in December 1988, along with the stage version of An Englishman Abroad. The two plays are collectively called Single Spies.

Frederik H. Kreuger Dutch high voltage scientist, professor and professional author

Frederik Hendrik Kreuger, was a Dutch high voltage scientist and inventor, lived in Delft, the Netherlands, and was professor emeritus of the Delft University of Technology. He was also a professional author of technical literature, nonfiction books, thrillers and a decisive biography of the master forger Han van Meegeren.

Jonathan Lopez is an American writer and art historian. Born in 1969 in New York City, he was educated there and at Harvard. He writes a monthly column for Art & Antiques called "Talking Pictures" and is a frequent contributor to London-based Apollo: The International Magazine of the Arts. His noted December 2007 Apollo article "Gross False Pretences" related the details of an acrimonious 1908 dispute between the art dealer Leo Nardus and the wealthy industrialist Peter Arrell Brown Widener of Philadelphia. Lopez has also written for ARTnews, the Associated Press, U.S. News & World Report, The Boston Globe, The International Herald Tribune, and the Dutch newsweekly De Groene Amsterdammer. His book, The Man Who Made Vermeers is a biography of the Dutch art forger Han van Meegeren.

Paulus Moreelse Dutch painter

Paulus Moreelse was a Dutch painter, mainly of portraits.

<i>A Young Woman Seated at the Virginals</i> paiting by Johannes Vermeer

A Young Woman Seated at the Virginals is a painting generally attributed to Johannes Vermeer, though this was for a long time widely questioned. A series of technical examinations from 1993 onwards confirmed the attribution. It is thought to date from c.1670 and is now in part of the Leiden Collection in New York. It should not be confused with Young Woman Seated at a Virginal in the National Gallery, London, also by Vermeer.

Jacques van Meegeren Dutch illustrator, painter and art forger

Jacques Henri Emil van Meegeren was a Dutch illustrator and painter.

Dirk Hannema Dutch art collector, museum director, member of Seyss-Inquart organisation

Dirk Hannema was a controversial museum director and art collector. The Museum Boijmans flourished under his directorship, but he was also arrested and interned for eight months for his conduct during the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War II. Further, his reputation was severely damaged when he inaccurately attributed various forgeries to the painter Johannes Vermeer, among others. However, a quarter century after his death, he was at least partially vindicated when Le Blute-Fin Mill, a painting he had championed as a van Gogh, was finally authenticated as being by the renowned painter.

Museum of Art Fakes

The Museum of Art Fakes is a museum of faked and forged artworks that opened in Vienna, Austria in 2005. This small, privately run museum in the Landstraße district is the only one of its kind in the German-speaking world.

Theo van Wijngaarden art forger

Theo van Wijngaarden was a Dutch art forger.

Aviva Burnstock Art conservator

Aviva Ruth Burnstock is head of the Department of Art Conservation & Technology at the Courtauld Institute, London. Burnstock is a graduate of the University of Sussex and took her PhD at the Courtauld Institute.

<i>The Lute Player</i> (Hals) painting by Frans Hals

The Lute Player refers to a painting from 1623 or 1624 now in the Louvre by the Haarlem painter Frans Hals, showing a smiling actor wearing a jester's costume and playing a lute.

<i>Smiling Girl</i> 20th-century painting

The Smiling Girl, thought to be by Johannes Vermeer, was donated by collector Andrew W. Mellon in 1937 to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Now widely considered to be a fake, the painting was claimed by Vermeer expert Arthur Wheelock in a 1995 study to be by 20th-century artist and forger Theo van Wijngaarden, a friend of Han van Meegeren.


  1. Norbert Schneider, Vermeer, 1632–1675: veiled emotions, Taschen, 2000, p.24.
  2. 1 2 John Michael Montias, Vermeer and His Milieu: A Web of Social History, Princeton University Press, 1991, p.146.
  3. Rijksmuseum catalogue
  4. "MFA catalogue". Retrieved 2013-12-11.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 "Van Meegeren". Fake or Fortune?. Episode 3. 2011-07-03. BBC . Retrieved 2011-08-04.
  6. "National Gallery". National Gallery. 2013-09-08. Retrieved 2013-12-11.
  7. Michael Wayne Cole, Mary Pardo, Inventions of the studio, Renaissance to Romanticism, UNC Press Books, 2005, p.206.
  8. "report in the Telegraph". 2011-07-02. Retrieved 2013-12-11.
  9. Akbar, Arifa (2009-09-28). "Independent article". Independent article. Retrieved 2013-12-11.