Oil on panel
9 x 12 inches (22.86 x 30.48 cm.)
New York, Newhouse Galleries, 1983
Private Collection, Texas
Private collection, Germany
Private Collection, USA
Pieter Van der Werff established his artistic career in Rotterdam, in 1694. Throughout his life, he kept close to his older brother, Adriaen, both in style and subject. The two brothers worked together, Pieter often studying Adriaen’s painting skills by copying his pictures. Such interaction thus creates a great deal of confusion for contemporary art historians in trying to attribute pictures. Both artists remained rooted in the tradition of 18th Century portraiture, genre and history paintings, yet with a slightly Classical influence, imparted by Johann Wilhelm van der Plaz. The two brothers died only weeks apart in 1722.
In our picture, A Young Girl at the Window with a Parrot, the great expanse of darkness in the background is balanced by the delicate treatment of the fair girl, whose smooth porcelain skin and adorning dress create luscious tone and volume against the dark background. Two parrots patter about their gold cage, their eyes black against their bright red feathered heads. The girl serenely offers a crust of bread to one of the eager birds, yet she does not look to her task. The girl’s face is turned toward the viewer, her beckoning eyes drawing us into the picture, inviting us to understand and appreciate her world.
Our painting exemplifies the style and spirit of 17th century Dutch genre painting: delicate skin tones enhanced by richly colored fabrics, strong compositional shapes created by a theatrical contrast between shadow and light. In addition, the painting follows the fijnschilderen (fine painting) technique, a refined style perfected by Gerard Dou. Such technique is characterized by smooth modeling, soft lighting effects and a delicate palette. Here, each pictorial element – the young girl’s face, the draping fabric, and gilded birdcage – are painted with meticulous control over light and color, creating an image of polished grace.