(b. 1639, Prague, d. 1684, Den Haag)

The Lace-Maker

Oil on canvas, 33 x 27 cm
Wallace Collection, London

Caspar Netscher is said to have been born in Prague but moved as a child to Arnhem, where he was a pupil of the local painter Herman Coster before entering the studio of Gerard ter Borch in Deventer. (The central figure in ter Borch's An Officer Dictating a Letter has been identified as Netscher.) He set out for Italy but only got as far as Bordeaux where he stayed for several years before returning to Holland in 1662 and settling in The Hague. He established a great contemporary reputation, . particularly as a portrait painter, and is said to have been invited to England by Charles II. He declined to go, although he painted many English and French sitters in The Hague. His portraits, most of which are on a small scale, were strongly influenced in style by van Dyck and his followers.

In his early years, before devoting himself exclusively to portraiture, Netscher painted small-scale genre paintings and also some religious and classical subjects: the earlier ones are related stylistically to the work of ter Borch and Metsu, the later ones, to Frans van Mieris the Elder. This painting was cleaned in 1990 and the correct date of 1662 revealed. It stands, therefore, at the very beginning of Netscher's career as an independent artist in The Hague. It is one of his most successful works, remarkable for the modesty of its subject, its richness of colour and firmness of modelling. It is an image which celebrates the effective performance of quiet domestic duties. The landscape print pinned to the wall (at the bottom of which can be seen the artist's signature and the picture's date) shows how such works were displayed in households which were not prosperous enough to afford paintings.