(b. 1617, Zwolle, d. 1681, Deventer)

The Concert

c. 1675
Oil on oak, 56 x 44 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Ter Borch's fame rests mainly upon the genre pictures he made after the middle of the 17th century which help define the subjects and pictorial schemes used by many artists of his generation and those who worked later. What sets him apart is his mastery of subtle narration which can charge every episode with subdued tension.

In contrast to Pieter de Hooch, Ter Borch maintains his fine taste and craftsmanship in his genre pieces until the very end. His contact with Vermeer in Delft in 1635 may have had an impact on the younger master. Then there conceivably was a shift; some of Ter Borch's late works seem to show a sign of Vermeer's influence. The fullness and clarity of the foreground figure playing the cello in the Concert at Berlin and the bright illumination of the room recall the Delft master; but it is also possible that the two artists arrived at similar solutions independently. In any event, the Ter Borch, the exquisite and minute treatment of materials, textures, and stuffs with the most intricate light accents is completely personal. The spatial relationships are not grasped with Vermeer's sureness, and the composition lacks the Delft painter's masterly consideration of the surface plane and the adjustment of the spatial accents to the overall design.

It will be noted that the figure playing the harpsichord has no Ter Borch character. Originally this figure represented a man. Ter Borch subsequently transformed the man into a woman, and a whimsical restorer, who worked on the picture at the end of the 19th century because of its bad state of presentation, changed the woman's gown and gave the model his wife's features.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 6 minutes):
François Couperin: Pieces de clavicen (excerpts)