The Whore, the Bawd, and the Artist: The Reality and Imagery of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Prostitution

Gerrit van Honthorst,  The Procuress, 1625, Centraal Museum, Utrecht

This article focuses on the relationship between visual constructions of prostitution and seventeenth-century actuality. Although the Protestant Dutch Republic criminalized prostitution, it still flourished, above all, in the port city of Amsterdam. Drawing on a multitude of observations from the criminal records, the essay lays out the main characteristics of this trade, including descriptions of the behavior and the appearance of both the bawds who operated as “peddlers of vice” and the prostitutes in their thrall. These real-life women stand in contrast to the attractive and luxuriously clad whores and the old and ugly procuresses in the bordello paintings. Ultimately, both painted types owe a greater debt to visual traditions and cultural views of women than to the historical record. In the paintings (and in prints) women are depicted as seducers and men as fools, the forbidden sexuality they portray being implicitly blamed on the women, who are understood as being inspired by the devil.

DOI: 10.5092/jhna.2010.2.1.3

Acknowledgements

The present article reworks “Beeld en Werkelijkheid van de Prostitutie in de Zeventiende Eeuw,” in Soete Minne en Helsche Boosheit. Seksuele Voorstellingen in Nederland 1300-1850, ed. Gert Hekma and Herman Roodenburg, 108-44 (Nijmegen, 1988). It has also benefited from new work and rethinking incorporated into my book The Burgher and the Whore (Oxford University Press, forthcoming). I wish to thank Eddy de Jongh, Professor Emeritus of the University of Utrecht, for his generous help with the 1988 article, my first venture in the realm of art history, and Professor Ann Jensen Adams of the University of California, Santa Barbara, Professor Alison M. Kettering of Carleton College and JHNA and Nicole Conti of the University of Texas for their contributions to the present article.

Lotte van de Pol received the Ph.D. in history at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam. Her last position was at the Friedrich Meinecke Institute of the Free University in Berlin and currently she is affiliated with the Institute for History and Culture at the University of Utrecht.  Her book (co-authored with Rudolf Dekker),The Tradition of Female Transvestism in Early Modern Europe (1989), has been translated into five languages. Her research into early modern Dutch prostitution has resulted in two books (1986 and 2003); the English version of the latter will be published by Oxford University Press in 2011 as The Burgher and the Whore. Prostitution in Early Modern Amsterdam.

Gerrit van Honthorst,  The Procuress, 1625,  Centraal Museum, Utrecht
Fig. 1 Gerrit van Honthorst, The Procuress, 1625, oil on panel, 71 x 104 cm. Centraal Museum, Utrecht, inv. no. 10786 (artwork in the public domain)
Gerrit van Honthorst,  Merry Company (or The Prodigal Son), 1622,  A1te Pinakothek, Munich
Fig. 2 Gerrit van Honthorst, Merry Company (or The Prodigal Son), 1622, oil on canvas, 130 x 196 cm. A1te Pinakothek, Munich, inv. no. 1312 (artwork in the public domain)
Frans van Mieris,  Sleeping Courtesan,  1669 (?),  Uffizi, Florence
Fig. 3 Frans van Mieris, Sleeping Courtesan, 1669 (?), oil on copper, 27.5 x 22.5 cm. Uffizi, Florence, inv. no.  1263 (artwork in the public domain)
Dirck van Baburen,  The Procuress, 1622,  Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Fig. 4 Dirck van Baburen, The Procuress, 1622, oil on canvas, 101.6 x 107.6 cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, inv. no. 50.2721 (artwork in the public domain)
Dirck van Baburen,  The Procuress, 1623,  Residenz, Würzburg
Fig. 5 Dirck van Baburen, The Procuress, 1623, oil on canvas, 109.2 x 132.1 cm. Residenz, Würzburg (artwork in the public domain)
Fig. 6 Frontispiece from D'Openhertige Juffrouw, of d'ontdekte geveinsdheid(The Outspoken Damsel, or Hypocrisy Unmasked), 2 vols. (Leiden, 1680 and 1681).
Fig. 6 Frontispiece from D'Openhertige Juffrouw, of d'ontdekte geveinsdheid (The Outspoken Damsel, or Hypocrisy Unmasked), 2 vols. (Leiden, 1680 and 1681).
Fig. 7 Frontispiece from't Amsterdamsch Hoerdom (Amsterdam: van Rijn, 1681).
Fig. 7 Frontispiece from't Amsterdamsch Hoerdom (Amsterdam: van Rijn, 1681).
Jan Sanders van Hemessen,  Tavern or Brothel Scene,  ca. 1545-50,  Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe
Fig. 8 Jan Sanders van Hemessen, Tavern or Brothel Scene, ca. 1545-50, oil on panel, 83 x 111 cm. Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe, inv. no.152 (artwork in the public domain)
The Brunswick Monogrammist (Jan van Amstel?),  Tavern or Brothel Scene,  ca. 1540,  Gemäldegalerie, Berlin
Fig. 9 The Brunswick Monogrammist (Jan van Amstel?), Tavern or Brothel Scene, ca. 1540, oil on panel, 29 x 45 cm. Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, inv. no. 558 (artwork in the public domain)
Jan Steen,  Robbery in a Brothel,  ca. 1665-68,  Musée du Louvre, Paris
Fig. 10 Jan Steen, Robbery in a Brothel, ca. 1665-68, oil on canvas, 410 x 350 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris, inv. no. R.F.301 (artwork in the public domain)
Gerrit van Honthorst,  Merry Company,  ca. 1619-20,  Galleria degli Uffizi. Florence
Fig. 11 Gerrit van Honthorst, Merry Company, ca. 1619-20, oil on canvas, 144 x 212 cm. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, inv. no. 730 (artwork in the public domain)
Gerrit van Honthorst,  Musical Group,  ca. 1625,  Galleria Borghese, Rome
Fig. 12 Gerrit van Honthorst, Musical Group, ca. 1625, oil on canvas, 168 x 202 cm. Galleria Borghese, Rome, inv. no. 31 (artwork in the public domain)
Dirck van Baburen,  The Prodigal Son, 1623,  Mittelrheinisches Landesmuseum, Mainz
Fig. 13 Dirck van Baburen, The Prodigal Son, 1623, oil on canvas, 110 x 154 cm. Mittelrheinisches Landesmuseum, Mainz, inv. no. 108 (artwork in the public domain)
Johannes Vermeer,  The Procuress, 1656,  Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister
Fig. 14 Johannes Vermeer, The Procuress, 1656, oil on canvas, 143 x 130 cm. Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, inv. no. 1335 (artwork in the public domain)
Hendrick Pot,  Brothel Scene (A Merry Company at Table),  ca. 1630,  National Gallery, London
Fig. 15 Hendrick Pot, Brothel Scene (A Merry Company at Table), ca. 1630, oil on oak, 32.3 x 49.6 cm. National Gallery, London, inv. no. NG1278 (artwork in the public domain)
Hendrick Pot,  Brothel Scene (Elegant Company),  ca. 1630,  Mauritshuis, The Hague
Fig. 16 Hendrick Pot, Brothel Scene (Elegant Company), ca. 1630, oil on panel, 41 x 56 cm. Mauritshuis, The Hague, inv. no. 475 (artwork in the public domain)
Hendrick Pot,  Scene in a Bordello,  c.1630,  New Orleans Museum of Art
Fig. 17 Hendrick Pot, Scene in a Bordello, c.1630, oil on panel, 36.8 x 48.3 cm. New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, Bequest of Bert Piso, inv. no. 81.265 (artwork in the public domain)
Jan Steen,  Oyster Meal,  ca. 1660-65,  National Gallery, London
Fig. 18 Jan Steen, Oyster Meal, ca. 1660-65, oil on oak, 38.1 x 31.5 cm. National Gallery, London, inv. no. NG2559 (artwork in the public domain)
Jan Steen, The Wench,  c.1660-62,  Musée de l'Hotel Sandelin, Saint-Omer
Fig. 19 Jan Steen, The Wench, c.1660-62, oil on canvas, 40 x 36.2 cm., Musée de l'Hotel Sandelin, Saint-Omer, inv. no. 0279 CM (artwork in the public domain)
  1. 1.

    1. For the omnipresence of religion, see A. Th. van Deursen, Plain Lives in a Golden Age: Popular Culture, Religion and Society in the Seventeenth-Century Holland, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).
  2. 2.

    1. It is possible that Johannes Vermeer knew of Dirck van Baburen’s Procuress because his mother-in-law owned a copy; see Christopher Brown, et al., Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting, exh. cat. (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1984), 131. Leonard Slatkes suggests instead that Vermeer knew the composition through his activities as art dealer; see Leonard J. Slatkes, Dirck van Baburen (c. 1595-1624): A Dutch Painter in Utrecht and Rome (Utrecht: Haentjens Dekker & Gumbert 1965), 118. An Amsterdam merchant is known to have owned a “Maria Magdalena” for which his mistress, the famous whore and madam Maria la Motte, had been the model. His wife objected to a painting of a prostitute in her house and used the painting in the divorce case against her husband; see S. A. C. Dudok van Heel, “Het ‘Gewoonlijck Model’ van de schilder Dirck Bleker,” Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum 29 (1981): 214-20, and Eric Jan Sluijter, Rembrandt and the Female Nude (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2006), 315. See also Klaske Muizelaar and Derek Phillips, Picturing Men and Women in the Dutch Golden Age: Paintings and People in Historical Perspective (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003), chap. 6: Erotic Images in the Domestic Interior: Cultural Ideals and Social Practices.
  3. 3.

    1. The dolls’ house is owned by the Centraal Museum, Utrecht. See Jet Pijzel-Dommisse, Het Poppenhuis van Petronella de la Court (Antwerp, Veen/Reflex Uitgevers, and Utrecht, Centraal Museum, 1987).
  4. 4.

    1. Gerard de Lairesse, Het Groot Schilderboek (1707). Cited by Christopher Brown, Images of a Golden Past: Dutch Genre Painting of the 17th Century (New York: Abbeville Press, 1984), 61. (Originally published in Dutch as “…Niet ledighs of ydels…”:, Nederlandse genreschilders uit de 17e eeuw [Amsterdam, 1984]).
  5. 5.

    1. Simon Schama, “Wives and Wantons: Versions of Womanhood in 17th century Dutch Art,”
      Oxford Art Journal 3 (1980): 5-13, also deals with this contradiction. See also Simon Schama: “The Unruly Realm: Appetite and Restraint in Seventeenth Century Holland,” Daedalus 108 (1979): 103-23.
  6. 6.

    1. In the discussion of the painted image of prostitution, I will confine myself to the clear cases of bordeeltjes and not include the “proposals” and “seductions,” where a young girl is offered money or a string of pearls by a man or an old woman. Examples of “propositions” include paintings by Judith Leyster (Mauritshuis, The Hague), Jan van Bijlert (Centraalmuseum, Utrecht and Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Kassel), and Gerard ter Borch, (Louvre, Paris). I will also not address the theme of “unequal lovers,” where a rich old man propositions a young girl, or a rich old woman propositions a young man. Examples include paintings by Quentin Massys (National Gallery, Washington, D.C.) and several by Jan Steen. I will also exclude pictures that exhibit illicit sexuality, but where professional prostitution is not certain. Examples include paintings by Frans van Mieris (Mauritshuis) and Jan Steen (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).
  7. 7. The following discussion of the reality of prostitution is based on Lotte C. van de Pol, Het Amsterdams Hoerdom: Prostitutie in de Zeventiende en Achttiende Eeuw (Amsterdam: Wereldbibliotheek, 1996), translated and reworked as The Burgher and the Whore: Prostitution in Early Modern Europe (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

  8. 8. Van de Pol, Het Amsterdams Hoerdom, 151, and Leah Lydia Otis, Prostitution in Medieval Society: The History of an Urban Institution in Languedoc (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), 158.

  9. 9. Oswei Temkin, “On the History of ‘Morality and Syphilis,'” in The Double Face of Janus, and Other Essays in the History of Medicine, ed. Oswei Temkin (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1977), 471-84.

  10. 10. Jean Delumeau, Le péché et la peur: La culpabilisation en Occident (XIIIe-XVe siècles) (Paris, 1983).

  11. 11. ieter Spierenburg, Judicial Violence in the Dutch Republic (PhD diss., University of Amsterdam, 1978), 86.

  12. 12. The same suppression of prostitution is to be found in the first half of the seventeenth century. See A. Hallema. “Bestraffing van huwelijksontrouw en bestrijding van de prostitutie te Amsterdam in de jaren 1613-1621,” Tijdschrift voor Strafrecht 9 (1961): 321-40.

  13. 13. The same holds for the prostitutes of Leiden in the eighteenth century. See D. J. Noordam, “Prostitutie in Leiden in de 18e eeuw,” in Leidse Facetten: Tien studies over Leidse geschiedenis, ed. Dick E. H. de Boer (Zwolle: Waanders, 1982), 65-103, esp. 84-86, 88.

  14. 14. See, for example, Simon Schama, “Wives and Wantons,” 11-13.

  15. 15. Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, or, private vices, publick benefits (London: J. Roberts, 1714), 75-76.

  16. 16. J. W. Bosch, “Rechtshistorische aanteekeningen betreffende de overeenkomst tot het huren van dienstpersoneel,” part 1, Themis 92 (1931): 355-418 (see p. 412); part 2, Themis 93 (1932): 23-92, esp. 81-82. 

  17. 17. Joseph Shaw, Letters to a Nobleman from a Gentleman Traveling Through Flanders and France (London, 1709), 43-44.

  18. 18. The bawd of the paintings is recognizable in an Amsterdam ordinance of 1466, where such women are described as “ugly old bitches, who will do anything for money, gifts, or a bite of tasty food.” Quoted in Rechtsbronnen der stad Amsterdam, ed. J. C. Breen (The Hague, 1902), 126. 

  19. 19. This seems to have been the rule in early modern Europe; see Noordam, “Prostitutie in Leiden,” 74; Colin Jones, “Prostitution and the Ruling Class in Eighteenth-Century Montpellier,” History Workshop 6 (1978): 7-28, esp. 17. 

  20. 20. J. H. Böse, “Had de mensch met één vrouw niet konnen leven,”: Prostitutie en overspel in de literatuur van de zeventiende eeuw(Zutphen, The Netherlands: Walburg Pers, 1985).

  21. 21. See, for example, Herman Pleij, “Wie wordt er bang voor het boze wijf? Vrouwenhaat in de Middeleeuwen,” De Revisor 4, no. 6 (1977): 38-42. These ancient antifeminine ideas seem to have deepened in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and have influenced the witch-hunts of those times. See H. Dresen-Coenders, Het verbond van heks en duivel. Een waandenkbeeld aan het begin van de moderne tijd als symptoom van een ver anderende situat ie van de vrouw en als middle tot hervorming der zeden (Baarn, The Netherlands: Ambo, 1983), 25-26, 59-62. 

  22. 22. Konrad Renger, Lockere Gesellschaft: Zur Ikonographie des verlorenen Sohnes und von Wirtshausszenen in der niederlandischen Malerei (Berlin: Mann, 1970). See also Herman Pleij, Het Gilde van de Blauwe Schuit: Literatuur, volksfeest en burgermoraal in de late middeleeuwen (Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 1979).

  23. 23. Renger, Lockere Gesellschaft, 10.

  24. 24. Examples of sixteenth-century fighting among women include: Monogrammist A. P’s woodcut, Tavern, (reproduced in Renger, Lockere Gesellschaft, pl. 62).

  25. 25. See, for example, Natalie Zemon Davies, “Women on Top,” in Society and Culture in Early Modern France, ed. Natalie Zemon Davies, 146 (Palo Alto, CA, 1975), 146.

  26. 26. Hermann Braun, Gerard und Willem van Honthorst (Diss., University of Göttingen, 1966), 96, states that Gerrit van Honthorst was the first of the Utrecht Caravaggisti to introduce the procuress theme. Christopher Brown, Masters, 131, however, argues that Baburen was the first and that Honthorst followed.

  27. 27. Brown, Masters, 131. On Baburen, see also Slatkes, Dirck van Baburen.

  28. 28. See Abraham Bredius and P. Haverkorn van Ryswyk, “Hendrick Gerritsz. Pot, navolger van Frans Hals,” Oud Holland 5 (1887): 161-76. A century ago the whereabouts of more bordeeltjes by Pot was known than now. In addition to the works illustrated here, there are currently paintings with such themes in the Gemäldegalerie, Dresden, and the Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem. 

  29. 29. Counted in Karel Braun, Alle tot nu toe bekende schilderijen van Jan Steen (Rotterdam: Lekturama, 1980).

‘t Amsterdamsch Hoerdom, behelzende de listen en streeken, daar zich de Hoeren en Hoere Waardinnen van dienen; benevens der zelver maniere van leeven, dwaaze bygelovigheden, en in’t algemeen allen’t geen by dese Juffers in gebruik is. Amsterdam: van Rijn, 1681.

Bosch, J. W. “Rechtshistorische aanteekeningen betreffende de overeenkomst tot het huren van dienstpersoneel,” part 1, Themis 92 (1931): 355-418, and part 2, Themis 93 (1932): 23-92

Böse, J. H. “Had de mensch met één vrou niet connen leven…”: Prostitutie in de literatuur van de 17. eeuw. Zutphen, The Netherlands: Walburg Pers, 1985.

Braun, Hermann. Gerard und Willem van Honthorst. Diss., University of Göttingen, 1966.

Braun, Karel. Alle tot nu toe bekende schilderijen van Jan Steen. Rotterdam: Lekturama,1980.

Bredius, Abraham, and P. Haverkorn van Ryswyk. “Hendrick Gerritsz. Pot, navolger van Frans Hals.” Oud Holland 5 (1887): 161-76.

Breen, J. C, ed. Rechtsbronnen der stad Amsterdam. The Hague: Nijhoff, 1902. Brown, Christopher. Images of a Golden Past: Dutch Genre Painting of the Seventeenth Century. New York: Abbeville Press, 1984. (Published in Dutch as: …Niet ledighs of ydels…”: Nederlandse genreschilders uit de 17e eeuw [Amsterdam: J. H. de Bussy, 1984]).

Brown, Christopher, et al. Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting. Exh. cat. Philadephia Museum of Art, 1984.

Darmon, Pierre. Mythologie de la femme dans l’ancienne France: XVIe – XVIIIe siècle. Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1983.

Davies, Natalie Zemon. “Women on Top,” in Society and Culture in Early Modern France, ed. Natalie Zemon Davies, 124-51. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1975.

Deursen, A. Th. van. Plain Lives in the Golden Age: Popular Culture, Religion, and Society in Seventeenth-Century Holland. Volume 4. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Dresen-Coenders, H. Het verbond van heks en duivel. Een waandenkbeeld aan het begin van de moderne tijd als symptoom van een ver anderende situatie van de vrouw en als middel tot hervorming der zeden.Baarn, The Netherlands: Ambo, 1983.

Dudok van Heel, S .A. C. “Het ‘gewoonlijck model’ van de schilder Dirck Bleker.” Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum 29 (1981): 214-20.

Faber, Sjoerd. Strafrechtspleging en criminaliteit te Amsterdam, 1660-1811: De Nieuwe Menslievendheid. Diss., Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Arnhem, The Netherlands: Gouda Quinti,1983.

Fokker, A. A. “Geschiedenis der Syphilis in de Nederlanden.” Nederlandsch Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde 4 (1860): 419-46; and Nederlandsch Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde 5 (1861): 451-72.

Hallema, A. “Bestraffing van huwelijksontrouw en bestrijding van de prostitutie te Amsterdam in de jaren 1613-1621.” Tijdschrift voor Strafrecht 9 (1961): 321-40.

Ingram, Martin. Church Courts, Sex, Marriage in England, 1570-1640. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Jones, Colin. “Prostitution and the Ruling Class in Eighteenth-Century Montpellier.” History Workshop 6 (1978): 7-28.

Kelly, Joan. “Early Feminist Theory and the Querelle des Femmes, 1400-1789.” Signs 8 (1982): 4-28. doi:10.1086/493940

Mandeville, Bernard. The Fable of the Bees, or, Private Vices, Publick Benefits. London: J. Roberts, 1714.

Muizelaar, Klaske, and Derek Phillips. Picturing Men and Women in the Dutch Golden Age: Paintings and People in Historical Perspective. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003.

Noordam, D. J. “Prostitutie in Leiden in de 18e eeuw.” In Leidse Facetten: Tien studies over Leidsegeschiedenis, ed. Dick E. H. de Boer, 65-103. Zwolle, The Netherlands: Waanders,1982.

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D’Openhertige Juffrouw, of d’ontdekte geveinsdheid. 2 vols. Amsterdam,1680 and 1681.

Otis, Leah Lydia. Prostitution in Medieval Society: The History of an Urban Institution in Languedoc. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.

Pleij, Herman. Het Gilde van de Blauwe Schuit:. Literatuur, volksfeest en burgermoraal in de late middeleeuwen. Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 1979.

—–. “Wie wordt er bang voor het boze wijf? Vrouwenhaat in de Middeleeuwen.” De Revisor 4, no. 6 (1977): 38-42.

Pijzel-Dommisse, Jet. Het Poppenhuis van Petronella de la Court. Antwerp: Veen/Reflex Uitgevers, and Utrecht: Centraal Museum, 1987.

Pol, Lotte C. van de. Het Amsterdams Hoerdom: Prostitutie in de Zeventiende en Achttiende Eeuw.Amsterdam: Wereldbibliotheek, 1996.

—–.The Burger and the Whore: Prostitution in Early Modern Amsterdam. Oxford University Press, forthcoming.

“Vrouwencriminaliteit in Amsterdam in de tweede helft van de 17e eeuw.” Tijdschrift voor Criminologie 87 (1987):148-56.

Renger, Konrad. Lockere Gesellschaft: Zur Ikonographie des verlorenen Sohnes und von Wirtshausszenen in der niederlandischen Malerei. Berlin: Mann, 1970.

Schama, Simon. “The Unruly Realm: Appetite and Restraint in Seventeenth Century Holland.” Daedalus 108 (1979): 103-23.

—–. “Wives and Wantons: Versions of Womanhood in 17th Century Dutch Art.” Oxford Art Journal 3 (1980): 5-13.

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Sluijter, Eric Jan. Rembrandt and the Female Nude. Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam Press, 2006.

Spierenburg, Pieter. Judicial Violence in the Dutch Republic. PhD diss., University of Amsterdam, 1978.

Temkin, Owsei. “On the History of ‘Morality and Syphilis.'” In The Double Face of Janus, and Other Essays in the History of Medicine, ed, Owsei Temkin, 471-84. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1977.

Wright, Louis B. Middle Class Culture in Elizabethan England. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1958.

List of Illustrations

Gerrit van Honthorst,  The Procuress, 1625,  Centraal Museum, Utrecht
Fig. 1 Gerrit van Honthorst, The Procuress, 1625, oil on panel, 71 x 104 cm. Centraal Museum, Utrecht, inv. no. 10786 (artwork in the public domain)
Gerrit van Honthorst,  Merry Company (or The Prodigal Son), 1622,  A1te Pinakothek, Munich
Fig. 2 Gerrit van Honthorst, Merry Company (or The Prodigal Son), 1622, oil on canvas, 130 x 196 cm. A1te Pinakothek, Munich, inv. no. 1312 (artwork in the public domain)
Frans van Mieris,  Sleeping Courtesan,  1669 (?),  Uffizi, Florence
Fig. 3 Frans van Mieris, Sleeping Courtesan, 1669 (?), oil on copper, 27.5 x 22.5 cm. Uffizi, Florence, inv. no.  1263 (artwork in the public domain)
Dirck van Baburen,  The Procuress, 1622,  Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Fig. 4 Dirck van Baburen, The Procuress, 1622, oil on canvas, 101.6 x 107.6 cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, inv. no. 50.2721 (artwork in the public domain)
Dirck van Baburen,  The Procuress, 1623,  Residenz, Würzburg
Fig. 5 Dirck van Baburen, The Procuress, 1623, oil on canvas, 109.2 x 132.1 cm. Residenz, Würzburg (artwork in the public domain)
Fig. 6 Frontispiece from D'Openhertige Juffrouw, of d'ontdekte geveinsdheid(The Outspoken Damsel, or Hypocrisy Unmasked), 2 vols. (Leiden, 1680 and 1681).
Fig. 6 Frontispiece from D'Openhertige Juffrouw, of d'ontdekte geveinsdheid (The Outspoken Damsel, or Hypocrisy Unmasked), 2 vols. (Leiden, 1680 and 1681).
Fig. 7 Frontispiece from't Amsterdamsch Hoerdom (Amsterdam: van Rijn, 1681).
Fig. 7 Frontispiece from't Amsterdamsch Hoerdom (Amsterdam: van Rijn, 1681).
Jan Sanders van Hemessen,  Tavern or Brothel Scene,  ca. 1545-50,  Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe
Fig. 8 Jan Sanders van Hemessen, Tavern or Brothel Scene, ca. 1545-50, oil on panel, 83 x 111 cm. Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe, inv. no.152 (artwork in the public domain)
The Brunswick Monogrammist (Jan van Amstel?),  Tavern or Brothel Scene,  ca. 1540,  Gemäldegalerie, Berlin
Fig. 9 The Brunswick Monogrammist (Jan van Amstel?), Tavern or Brothel Scene, ca. 1540, oil on panel, 29 x 45 cm. Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, inv. no. 558 (artwork in the public domain)
Jan Steen,  Robbery in a Brothel,  ca. 1665-68,  Musée du Louvre, Paris
Fig. 10 Jan Steen, Robbery in a Brothel, ca. 1665-68, oil on canvas, 410 x 350 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris, inv. no. R.F.301 (artwork in the public domain)
Gerrit van Honthorst,  Merry Company,  ca. 1619-20,  Galleria degli Uffizi. Florence
Fig. 11 Gerrit van Honthorst, Merry Company, ca. 1619-20, oil on canvas, 144 x 212 cm. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, inv. no. 730 (artwork in the public domain)
Gerrit van Honthorst,  Musical Group,  ca. 1625,  Galleria Borghese, Rome
Fig. 12 Gerrit van Honthorst, Musical Group, ca. 1625, oil on canvas, 168 x 202 cm. Galleria Borghese, Rome, inv. no. 31 (artwork in the public domain)
Dirck van Baburen,  The Prodigal Son, 1623,  Mittelrheinisches Landesmuseum, Mainz
Fig. 13 Dirck van Baburen, The Prodigal Son, 1623, oil on canvas, 110 x 154 cm. Mittelrheinisches Landesmuseum, Mainz, inv. no. 108 (artwork in the public domain)
Johannes Vermeer,  The Procuress, 1656,  Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister
Fig. 14 Johannes Vermeer, The Procuress, 1656, oil on canvas, 143 x 130 cm. Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, inv. no. 1335 (artwork in the public domain)
Hendrick Pot,  Brothel Scene (A Merry Company at Table),  ca. 1630,  National Gallery, London
Fig. 15 Hendrick Pot, Brothel Scene (A Merry Company at Table), ca. 1630, oil on oak, 32.3 x 49.6 cm. National Gallery, London, inv. no. NG1278 (artwork in the public domain)
Hendrick Pot,  Brothel Scene (Elegant Company),  ca. 1630,  Mauritshuis, The Hague
Fig. 16 Hendrick Pot, Brothel Scene (Elegant Company), ca. 1630, oil on panel, 41 x 56 cm. Mauritshuis, The Hague, inv. no. 475 (artwork in the public domain)
Hendrick Pot,  Scene in a Bordello,  c.1630,  New Orleans Museum of Art
Fig. 17 Hendrick Pot, Scene in a Bordello, c.1630, oil on panel, 36.8 x 48.3 cm. New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, Bequest of Bert Piso, inv. no. 81.265 (artwork in the public domain)
Jan Steen,  Oyster Meal,  ca. 1660-65,  National Gallery, London
Fig. 18 Jan Steen, Oyster Meal, ca. 1660-65, oil on oak, 38.1 x 31.5 cm. National Gallery, London, inv. no. NG2559 (artwork in the public domain)
Jan Steen, The Wench,  c.1660-62,  Musée de l'Hotel Sandelin, Saint-Omer
Fig. 19 Jan Steen, The Wench, c.1660-62, oil on canvas, 40 x 36.2 cm., Musée de l'Hotel Sandelin, Saint-Omer, inv. no. 0279 CM (artwork in the public domain)

Footnotes

  1. 1.

    1. For the omnipresence of religion, see A. Th. van Deursen, Plain Lives in a Golden Age: Popular Culture, Religion and Society in the Seventeenth-Century Holland, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).
  2. 2.

    1. It is possible that Johannes Vermeer knew of Dirck van Baburen’s Procuress because his mother-in-law owned a copy; see Christopher Brown, et al., Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting, exh. cat. (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1984), 131. Leonard Slatkes suggests instead that Vermeer knew the composition through his activities as art dealer; see Leonard J. Slatkes, Dirck van Baburen (c. 1595-1624): A Dutch Painter in Utrecht and Rome (Utrecht: Haentjens Dekker & Gumbert 1965), 118. An Amsterdam merchant is known to have owned a “Maria Magdalena” for which his mistress, the famous whore and madam Maria la Motte, had been the model. His wife objected to a painting of a prostitute in her house and used the painting in the divorce case against her husband; see S. A. C. Dudok van Heel, “Het ‘Gewoonlijck Model’ van de schilder Dirck Bleker,” Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum 29 (1981): 214-20, and Eric Jan Sluijter, Rembrandt and the Female Nude (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2006), 315. See also Klaske Muizelaar and Derek Phillips, Picturing Men and Women in the Dutch Golden Age: Paintings and People in Historical Perspective (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003), chap. 6: Erotic Images in the Domestic Interior: Cultural Ideals and Social Practices.
  3. 3.

    1. The dolls’ house is owned by the Centraal Museum, Utrecht. See Jet Pijzel-Dommisse, Het Poppenhuis van Petronella de la Court (Antwerp, Veen/Reflex Uitgevers, and Utrecht, Centraal Museum, 1987).
  4. 4.

    1. Gerard de Lairesse, Het Groot Schilderboek (1707). Cited by Christopher Brown, Images of a Golden Past: Dutch Genre Painting of the 17th Century (New York: Abbeville Press, 1984), 61. (Originally published in Dutch as “…Niet ledighs of ydels…”:, Nederlandse genreschilders uit de 17e eeuw [Amsterdam, 1984]).
  5. 5.

    1. Simon Schama, “Wives and Wantons: Versions of Womanhood in 17th century Dutch Art,”
      Oxford Art Journal 3 (1980): 5-13, also deals with this contradiction. See also Simon Schama: “The Unruly Realm: Appetite and Restraint in Seventeenth Century Holland,” Daedalus 108 (1979): 103-23.
  6. 6.

    1. In the discussion of the painted image of prostitution, I will confine myself to the clear cases of bordeeltjes and not include the “proposals” and “seductions,” where a young girl is offered money or a string of pearls by a man or an old woman. Examples of “propositions” include paintings by Judith Leyster (Mauritshuis, The Hague), Jan van Bijlert (Centraalmuseum, Utrecht and Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Kassel), and Gerard ter Borch, (Louvre, Paris). I will also not address the theme of “unequal lovers,” where a rich old man propositions a young girl, or a rich old woman propositions a young man. Examples include paintings by Quentin Massys (National Gallery, Washington, D.C.) and several by Jan Steen. I will also exclude pictures that exhibit illicit sexuality, but where professional prostitution is not certain. Examples include paintings by Frans van Mieris (Mauritshuis) and Jan Steen (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).
  7. 7. The following discussion of the reality of prostitution is based on Lotte C. van de Pol, Het Amsterdams Hoerdom: Prostitutie in de Zeventiende en Achttiende Eeuw (Amsterdam: Wereldbibliotheek, 1996), translated and reworked as The Burgher and the Whore: Prostitution in Early Modern Europe (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

  8. 8. Van de Pol, Het Amsterdams Hoerdom, 151, and Leah Lydia Otis, Prostitution in Medieval Society: The History of an Urban Institution in Languedoc (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), 158.

  9. 9. Oswei Temkin, “On the History of ‘Morality and Syphilis,'” in The Double Face of Janus, and Other Essays in the History of Medicine, ed. Oswei Temkin (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1977), 471-84.

  10. 10. Jean Delumeau, Le péché et la peur: La culpabilisation en Occident (XIIIe-XVe siècles) (Paris, 1983).

  11. 11. ieter Spierenburg, Judicial Violence in the Dutch Republic (PhD diss., University of Amsterdam, 1978), 86.

  12. 12. The same suppression of prostitution is to be found in the first half of the seventeenth century. See A. Hallema. “Bestraffing van huwelijksontrouw en bestrijding van de prostitutie te Amsterdam in de jaren 1613-1621,” Tijdschrift voor Strafrecht 9 (1961): 321-40.

  13. 13. The same holds for the prostitutes of Leiden in the eighteenth century. See D. J. Noordam, “Prostitutie in Leiden in de 18e eeuw,” in Leidse Facetten: Tien studies over Leidse geschiedenis, ed. Dick E. H. de Boer (Zwolle: Waanders, 1982), 65-103, esp. 84-86, 88.

  14. 14. See, for example, Simon Schama, “Wives and Wantons,” 11-13.

  15. 15. Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, or, private vices, publick benefits (London: J. Roberts, 1714), 75-76.

  16. 16. J. W. Bosch, “Rechtshistorische aanteekeningen betreffende de overeenkomst tot het huren van dienstpersoneel,” part 1, Themis 92 (1931): 355-418 (see p. 412); part 2, Themis 93 (1932): 23-92, esp. 81-82. 

  17. 17. Joseph Shaw, Letters to a Nobleman from a Gentleman Traveling Through Flanders and France (London, 1709), 43-44.

  18. 18. The bawd of the paintings is recognizable in an Amsterdam ordinance of 1466, where such women are described as “ugly old bitches, who will do anything for money, gifts, or a bite of tasty food.” Quoted in Rechtsbronnen der stad Amsterdam, ed. J. C. Breen (The Hague, 1902), 126. 

  19. 19. This seems to have been the rule in early modern Europe; see Noordam, “Prostitutie in Leiden,” 74; Colin Jones, “Prostitution and the Ruling Class in Eighteenth-Century Montpellier,” History Workshop 6 (1978): 7-28, esp. 17. 

  20. 20. J. H. Böse, “Had de mensch met één vrouw niet konnen leven,”: Prostitutie en overspel in de literatuur van de zeventiende eeuw(Zutphen, The Netherlands: Walburg Pers, 1985).

  21. 21. See, for example, Herman Pleij, “Wie wordt er bang voor het boze wijf? Vrouwenhaat in de Middeleeuwen,” De Revisor 4, no. 6 (1977): 38-42. These ancient antifeminine ideas seem to have deepened in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and have influenced the witch-hunts of those times. See H. Dresen-Coenders, Het verbond van heks en duivel. Een waandenkbeeld aan het begin van de moderne tijd als symptoom van een ver anderende situat ie van de vrouw en als middle tot hervorming der zeden (Baarn, The Netherlands: Ambo, 1983), 25-26, 59-62. 

  22. 22. Konrad Renger, Lockere Gesellschaft: Zur Ikonographie des verlorenen Sohnes und von Wirtshausszenen in der niederlandischen Malerei (Berlin: Mann, 1970). See also Herman Pleij, Het Gilde van de Blauwe Schuit: Literatuur, volksfeest en burgermoraal in de late middeleeuwen (Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 1979).

  23. 23. Renger, Lockere Gesellschaft, 10.

  24. 24. Examples of sixteenth-century fighting among women include: Monogrammist A. P’s woodcut, Tavern, (reproduced in Renger, Lockere Gesellschaft, pl. 62).

  25. 25. See, for example, Natalie Zemon Davies, “Women on Top,” in Society and Culture in Early Modern France, ed. Natalie Zemon Davies, 146 (Palo Alto, CA, 1975), 146.

  26. 26. Hermann Braun, Gerard und Willem van Honthorst (Diss., University of Göttingen, 1966), 96, states that Gerrit van Honthorst was the first of the Utrecht Caravaggisti to introduce the procuress theme. Christopher Brown, Masters, 131, however, argues that Baburen was the first and that Honthorst followed.

  27. 27. Brown, Masters, 131. On Baburen, see also Slatkes, Dirck van Baburen.

  28. 28. See Abraham Bredius and P. Haverkorn van Ryswyk, “Hendrick Gerritsz. Pot, navolger van Frans Hals,” Oud Holland 5 (1887): 161-76. A century ago the whereabouts of more bordeeltjes by Pot was known than now. In addition to the works illustrated here, there are currently paintings with such themes in the Gemäldegalerie, Dresden, and the Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem. 

  29. 29. Counted in Karel Braun, Alle tot nu toe bekende schilderijen van Jan Steen (Rotterdam: Lekturama, 1980).

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Review: Peer Review (Double Blind)
DOI: 10.5092/jhna.2010.2.1.3
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Recommended Citation:
Lotte C. van der Pol, "The Whore, the Bawd, and the Artist: The Reality and Imagery of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Prostitution," Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art 2:1-2 (Summer 2010) DOI: 10.5092/jhna.2010.2.1.3