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AThe Work & Artist
Fifth Louvre - DNP Museum Lab presentation Van Hoogstraten,The Slippers:Experimenting with one's gaze

© 2008 Musée du Louvre
/ Georges Poncet
The painting entitled The Slippers by 17th-century artist Samuel Van Hoogstraten is one of the finest works in the Louvre's collection of Dutch paintings. It entered the museum as part of the Croÿ donation which comprised some 3,800 drawings and paintings.

This unusual and intriguing work has been the subject of considerable speculation, especially concerning its attribution and dating; the date 1658 was even added to the canvas in the 19th century, together with the monogram of Pieter de Hooch (whose popularity was then at its height).

Dutch genre paintings reflect a distinct preference for domestic scenes, and this work is no exception with its depiction of a bourgeois interior…. Yet it stands out as a highly atypical painting to which the absence of human figures gives a particularly enigmatic quality.

The scene was considered so disturbingly empty that a dog, and later a little girl, were temporarily added to the painting in the 19th century to give it a more conventional appearance. The strength of this unusual work lies in the fact that it prompts reflection on space - a theme that was of particular interest to the artist - with its suggestion of a palpable yet invisible presence.
keys to the painting?
Despite the absence of figures in this peaceful interior, a human - specifically female - presence is skillfully suggested by several details such as the typical 17th-century Dutch slippers that have been carelessly removed and left in the hallway, and the book that lies open on the table.

As the eye moves from one room to the next, it encounters a number of objects of varying significance, from the broom that leans against the wall to the painting in the background. The longer the viewer looks, the more he is drawn into this scene with its aura of mystery.

On the wall of the richly furnished far room hangs an equally intriguing painting which shows a young woman seen from behind. The "painting within a painting" was a recurrent motif in 17th-century Dutch genre scenes; it enabled the artist to make a subtle comment on the scene represented in his painting. This particular work is both the result of the artist's reflection on traditional domestic genre scenes, and a brilliant example of spatial illusion in painting.
Visible and invisible spaces
The spatial construction of the scene is based on a series of three frames in the form of doorways, which are foreshortened and accentuated by the latch and keys that stand out against the brighter background. The sophisticated lighting effects and varying intensity of light and shade suggest the presence of a glass partition, half-open shutters, or partly drawn curtains in spaces beyond the viewer's gaze.
A pupil of Rembrandt who took his art beyond Holland

Self-portrait with Pen in Hand
Dordrechts Museum

Dordrecht, SIMON VAN GIJN - museum aan huis
Like Pieter de Hooch or Johannes Vermeer, Samuel Van Hoogstraten is one of the finest representatives of 17th-century Dutch genre painting. A native of Dordrecht, he studied in Rembrandt's Amsterdam workshop from the age of fifteen. He had an international career which included visits to the courts of Austria and England. This versatile artist - portraitist, inventor of extraordinary trompe-l'oeil effects, man of letters - was also a remarkable theorist. His treatise entitled "Introduction to the High School of the Art of Painting", published at the end of his life and fundamental for the study of Dutch 17th-century painting, focuses on the problem of perspective, brilliantly illustrated by this painting.
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