(b. 1634, Rotterdam, d. 1682, Amsterdam)

Street Musicians at the Doorway of a House

Oil on canvas
Art Museum, Saint Louis

Ochtervelt is best known for his genre pictures which received a strong impetus from the works of Frans van Mieris the Elder done in the late 1650s and early 1660s. He adopts and often refines Mieris's motifs. Mieris's sexual allusions are not missing, but they are less explicit. He gains distinction as a remarkable stuff painter and develops a personal palette of lovely salmon pinks, light blues, silvery greys, violets, and orange browns.

After 1660 he concentrates on the high life of the wealthier classes and the domestic life of affluent women, their children, servants. His highly original contribution in his domestic scenes is the perfection of the entrance hall motif. In them he focuses on the open door of a well-to-do home at which food vendors or begging musicians appear. In Ochtervelt's hands the threshold device creates three prominent distinctions: the differences between indoor and outdoor light and space; the separation of private and public spheres of life; the differentiation of social classes. His vendors and beggars are well-kempt and jolly; they seem to live in a world where the misery of poverty has never been experienced. They hardly could differ more from the wretched ones Rembrandt depicted in his etchings earlier in the century.

As seen in this picture, in the sixties Ochtervelt's figures become slender and attenuated reflecting a new ideal of beauty. About the same time Jan Steen begins to use a similar canon of proportion for the fine women in his genre pieces. What soon became recognized as an elegant thinness, an earlier generation would have called skinny.