Take One Picture
The Courtyard of a House in Delft
Pieter de Hooch
In the sunlight of a quiet afternoon this courtyard seems to radiate tranquillity. Everything is still, including the figures: a young maid, clean and calm, who holds the hand of a little girl, and the shadowy figure of a woman in the passageway to the left, presumably the child’s mother, who turns towards the houses opposite her own. De Hooch placed the mother in the formal part of the house, painted in architectural detail, while the maid and the child stand in an area closer to nature.
The picture shows de Hooch’s skill in depicting architecture, but it’s also a vision of women’s role in the stability of the home. At the time this was painted, treatises were being written on household and family management; Jacob Cats’s Houwelyck was addressed directly to women, its chapters divided into Maiden, Sweetheart, Bride, Housewife, Mother and Widow. Some artists, including de Hooch, presented pictures that were a confirmation and encouragement of the ideals put forward in such books.