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Thomas Wyck, Dutch, 1616-1677: Inte­ri­or with Bed, c. 1650-60 

Sun­light cas­cades through lead glass win­dows to illu­mi­nate a recent­ly occu­pied bed, a scene depict­ed by the artist almost entire­ly using a brush and gray wash, or dilut­ed ink. Since ded­i­cat­ed bed­rooms were rare in sev­en­teenth-cen­tu­ry Dutch homes, peo­ple slept in bed­steads. Such sleep­ing quar­ters were sur­round­ed by wood plank­ing and set into a cor­ner or wall of a room and were fur­nished with cur­tains for warmth and pri­va­cy. Its focus as the sub­ject mat­ter of a draw­ing, rather than as a back­ground ele­ment in a broad­er com­po­si­tion, is unusu­al, sug­gest­ing that Thomas Wijck kept it in his stu­dio for later use.

This attrac­tive study, exe­cut­ed almost entire­ly with a brush and wash, imparts a charm­ing sense of tran­quil­i­ty. It gives the impres­sion that the artist him­self slept in this bed and decid­ed to make this study after wak­ing up, care­ful­ly drap­ing the cur­tain around the back of the chair before pick­ing up the tools of his trade. The bed is more prop­er­ly called a bed­stead (bed­st­ede or bed­stee), a com­mon type found in many hous­es at the time. The wood plank­ing enclos­es the space into a cor­ner or wall of a room, with a cur­tain and valance added for addi­tion­al pri­va­cy and warmth.1

Ded­i­cat­ed bed­rooms (slaap­kamers) were actu­al­ly quite rare at the time.2 Such bed­steads could be found in any num­ber or type of room in Dutch hous­es, even in kitchens or com­mon areas, though given the angled gables around the win­dow here, this par­tic­u­lar room appears to be on an upper level of a more urban struc­ture, or a vil­lage inn.

A bed­stead is a high­ly unusu­al type of stand-alone sub­ject mat­ter in Dutch art. One of the clos­est relat­ed exam­ples can be found in a draw­ing by Cor­nelis Bega (c. 1631/32 – 1664) show­ing a sim­i­lar bed­stead in what appears to be a room in a large farm­house barn (stolp­boerder­ij) with a hearth used for cook­ing in the same space Fig. 49.1.3

Cornelis Bega, Farmhouse Interior
Fig. 49.1

Cor­nelis Bega, Farm­house Inte­ri­or, c. 1648 – 50. Pen in brown ink and brush in gray and brown ink, 152 × 252 mm. Ams­ter­dam, Rijksmu­se­um, inv. no. rp-t-00-211.

Even in Bega’s case, how­ev­er, the focus remains more on the whole room rather than the bed itself. Beds and bed­steads are more com­mon­ly encoun­tered as back­ground ele­ments in art­works pop­u­lat­ed with one or more fig­ures. Some of the best exam­ples can be found in Pieter de Hooch’s (1629 – 1684) genre paint­ings set in inte­ri­ors of well-to-do burg­ers’ hous­es, also dat­a­ble to the 1650s.4

Clos­er to home in Thomas Wijck­’s case are the numer­ous draw­ings and paint­ings by fel­low Haar­lem artist Adri­aen van Ostade (1610 – 1685), who fre­quent­ly added a bed­stead in the back­ground of his low-life images of rowdy or relax­ing peas­ants.5

Both Wijck and Bega are pre­sumed to have been stu­dents of Van Ostade, and they may have adopt­ed the prac­tice of mak­ing stud­ies of inte­ri­ors from him. A draw­ing by Rem­brandt (1606 – 1669) show­ing his wife Sask­ia in bed, attend­ed by a woman seat­ed next to her, is prob­a­bly the best-known sev­en­teenth-cen­tu­ry Dutch image con­tain­ing a bed­stead Fig. 49.2.6

Rembrandt, Interior with Saskia in Bed
Fig. 49.2

Rem­brandt, Inte­ri­or with Sask­ia in Bed, c. 1640 – 42. Pen in brown ink and brush in brown and gray wash, with addi­tions in red and black chalk, 142 × 177 mm. Paris, Fon­da­tion Cus­to­dia, Frits Lugt Col­lec­tion, inv. no. 266.

Dated on styl­is­tic grounds to circa 1640 – 42, Rem­brandt must have made this draw­ing just after he and Sask­ia moved to their house on the Jood­en­breestraat, and her pres­ence in bed may relate to one of her child­births around that time.8

This image was one of the main sources used to recon­struct the large back room (achterkamer or sael) in the Rem­brandt House Muse­um, which includes a repli­ca of a bed­stead that can be seen there today.8

While the Peck draw­ing is unsigned and pre­vi­ous­ly unpub­lished, the attri­bu­tion to Wijck can be made on the basis of styl­is­tic com­par­i­son with a group of sim­i­lar draw­ings of inte­ri­ors. Some of these, as Maud van Suylen point­ed out, were used by the artist to com­pose back­grounds in his genre paint­ings.9

While his inte­ri­or stud­ies are some­times slight­ly loos­er and sketch­i­er than in the present work, his char­ac­ter­is­tic han­dling of the brush can clear­ly be found here, espe­cial­ly in the liq­uid han­dling of the joints between the planks, and in the var­i­ous tones he uses to cre­ate tex­ture in the stuc­co walls.10

Unlike Van Ostade and Bega, Wijck com­plete­ly eschews the use of a pen for these stud­ies, pre­fer­ring to work with a brush over a black chalk under­draw­ing. Van Suylen the­o­rized that Wijck kept a port­fo­lio of draw­ings of such inte­ri­ors for stu­dio use.11

The present work prob­a­bly once belonged to this group of stud­ies, all of which are like­wise unsigned. Dat­ing this body of draw­ings is chal­leng­ing since none of the inte­ri­or draw­ings or their relat­ed paint­ings bear dates, but they were prob­a­bly made in the lat­ter part of his career, after his return from his pre­sumed trip to Italy.12

The seven-point­ed foolscap water­mark in this sheet also points to a date after 1650.

End Notes

  1. Fock 2001, 62, 79, 128.

  2. M. West­er­mann in Newark & Den­ver 2001 – 02, 30.

  3. For this draw­ing, see Fock 2001, 79; and Scott 1984, 427, no. D223. Despite bear­ing an old (non-auto­graph) sig­na­ture of Adri­aen van Ostade, the attri­bu­tion to Bega is con­vinc­ing­ly made on the basis of com­par­i­son with a signed draw­ing of a kitchen inte­ri­or for­mer­ly in the Vic­tor de Stuers col­lec­tion (https://​rkd​.nl/​e​x​p​l​o​r​e​/​i​m​a​g​e​s​/​2​85091).

  4. See Sut­ton 1980, pas­sim .

  5. See, for exam­ple, Schnack­en­burg 1981, nos. 41, 92, 219, 234, 239.

  6. Schat­born & Hin­ter­d­ing; and Benesch.

  7. Schat­born 2010, no. 10.

  8. For com­men­tary on this recon­struc­tion, see Chap­man 2015, 208.

  9. Van Suylen 2020.

  10. Work­shop Inte­ri­or, a draw­ing in the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art, New York (inv. no. 2005.418.26), is par­tic­u­lar­ly close in style and was used for the back­ground of at least two of Wijck’s paint­ings; see Van Suylen 2020, 198 – 99, figs. 5 – 7.

  11. Van Suylen 2020, 198, 203.

  12. For the years of Wijck­’s trav­els and doc­u­ment­ed inter­ims in Haar­lem, see I. van Thiel-Stro­man in Bies­boer et al. 2006, 347 – 49.