Gerard ter Borch

A Singing Practice (about 1655)

About this artwork

A young woman with her back to us holds a song book. The relationship between her and the seated figures may be intentionally ambiguous. The man’s keen interest in the girl’s singing suggests his role might that of suitor rather than tutor. The older woman enjoying a drink may have been instrumental in arranging the ‘lesson’. The restrained composition complements the scene’s subtle intrigue and also emphasises the shimmering satins and silks of the characters’ clothes. It is one of at least three versions of the same theme.

Gerard ter Borch

Gerard ter Borch

Ter Borch specialised in rendering scenes from every day life, a type that flourished in seventeenth-century Holland. He concentrated on quiet middle class interiors with one, two or three finely dressed figures. He also painted small-scale individual and group portraits. Ter Borch worked in Amsterdam and Haarlem, but primarily in the provincial city of Deventer. He was employed by the Spanish envoy and produced a group portrait commemorating the Peace of Munster 1648 (National Gallery, London) that ended the eighty year war between Spain and the Dutch Provinces.