NEER, Eglon van der
(b. 1634, Amsterdam, d. 1703, Düsseldorf)
Elegant Couple in an Interior1678
Oil on canvas, 85,5 x 70,1 cm
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford
Eglon van der Neer devoted a great deal of attention to the minutest details in his genre paintings - from the foreground to the most distant point in the background - though this did not always serve to heighten the natural effect of these scenes. The very precise and accurate rendering of the various materials sometimes gives his paintings a cool, distant feel. Nevertheless, Van der Neer was highly successful: the opulent interiors and the extremely costly materials he so accurately depicted must have appealed to the imagination of his clients. He was admired by many of the crowned heads of Europe and worked as court painter to the Elector Palatine Johann Wilhelm.
The rich, fashionably dressed burghers who are the subject of Elegant Couple in an Interior are shown surrounded by several servants. Van der Neer paid great attention to the costly fabrics of the clothes of the elegant couple in the foreground. He rendered the sheen and transparency of ribbons, embroidery and lace with the utmost care, and the man's beautifully coifed wig received the same meticulous attention to detail. The various elements in the painting have not been forged into a unified whole, however. Eglon van der Neer probably wanted to demonstrate his technical skill in the depiction of details. The great variety of materials is certainly no coincidence.
We cannot say with any certainty whether the painting depicts anything more than two people in a stylish interior. The fact that the couple in the background are drinking and their rather too intimate behaviour might indicate that this is a brothel scene.