For Students

New Acquisition: Caspar Netscher

Caspar Netscher
The Music Lesson (Musikalische Unterhaltung)
circa 1665
Oil on panel
Gift from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Heydon, 2011/2.179

In 2011, the Museum of Art received the gift of an important panel painting by the Dutch painter Caspar Netscher (born Germany, 1639?-1684). This very fine work is an important addition to UMMA's holdings in Dutch painting and represents a genre not already present in the collections—the subject of music making in a domestic interior. Beginning around 1650, scenes of low-life pastimes, such as drinking and dancing in taverns, were replaced by more affluent and refined interior scenes; Netscher's The Music Lesson reflects that transition. Here, four figures are shown in a dark but carefully constructed interior space: the man on the left plays a theorbo, an early bass lute, and accompanies the singing woman; seated at the far side of the table is another couple. Such domestic scenes from the middle of the seventeenth century reflect the sophisticated taste of Dutch consumers and the painting richly emphasizes the pleasures of the senses: the aural beauty of the music, the delicate qualities of light, and the textures of fabrics are depicted with a verisimilitude that seems to conjure up the physical world.

Netscher was the son of a German sculptor and trained in Arnhem with the still life painter Hendrick Coster (fl. 1638–59) before studying with Gerard ter Borch (1617–1681). Ter Borch's influence on Netscher's style can been seen in the handling of the rich cream-colored satin of the seated woman's dress, as well as in the delicately described but ambiguous psychological relationships between the figures. Netscher settled in The Hague by 1662, where he remained until his death.

The painting came to the United States from Vienna in the 1930s and was in the collection of UM Professor of English Language and Literature William A. Coles before Rita and Peter Heydon acquired it. The Heydons have long supported the Museum of Art and have donated several nineteenth-century works. They have also led the effort to find a period replacement frame for the University of Michigan's portrait of President Angell by William Merritt Chase, on view near the Museum's administrative offices.

Carole McNamara
UMMA Senior Curator of Western Art

This new acquisition will be on view in the first-floor connector between the Museum's historic wing and the Maxine and Stuart Frankel and the Frankel Family Wing from January 8 through April 7, 2013.