METSU, Gabriel
(b. 1629, Leiden, d. 1667, Amsterdam)

The Hunter's Gift

Oil on canvas, 51 x 48 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The subject of this painting, a young woman sewing who entertains a hunter proffering a dead partridge, constitutes a male—female confrontation that lies at the heart of much of Metsu's imagery throughout his career. Cleverly, the artist has even introduced a contrast between the protagonists' dogs: the lady's lapdog poised on the table stares at the stocky spaniel standing faithfully by its masters side.

Clearly, the little statue of Cupid perched on the linen chest behind the hunter and seamstress emphasizes the amorous nature of his offer, but the lustful underpinnings of the hunter's gesture would have been readily apparent to seventeenth-century viewers. In contemporary Dutch prints and texts birds refer to lasciviousness and the Dutch verb 'vogelen' (to bird) to sexual intercourse. Thus by offering the bird to the young woman, Metsu's hunter is actually propositioning her.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.