Rotterdam 1634 - 1682 Amsterdam
The Duet
signed lower left: J. Ochtervelt
oil on canvas
85.1 by 70 cm.; 33½ by 27½ in.


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Dr. Leon Lilienfeld (1869 - 1938), Vienna;
His widow, Antonie Lilienfeld, née Schulz (1876 - 1972);
In custody of Lilienfeld’s lawyer, Dr Emmerich Hunna, 1938, but denied export from Austria;
Found by US troops in the depot Alt-Aussee with other pictures intended for the Linz Museum, after the war;
Restituted to Antonie Lilienfeld, late 1940s until circa 1973;
Private collection, London, 1979;
With Noortman Master Paintings, Maastricht, 2007;
Private collection, U.S.A.

G. Glück, Niederländische Gemälde aus der Sammlung des Herrn Dr. Leon Lilienfeld in Wien, Vienna 1917, p. 66, cat. no. 47;
F. Becker, review of Glück, Kunstchronik 29, 1918, p. 395;
E. Plietzsch, 'Jacob Ochtervelt', Pantheon 20, 1937, p. 368, note 3;
E. Plietzsch, Holländische und flämische Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts, Leipzig 1960, p. 65, note 1;
S. Donahue Kuretsky, The paintings of Jacob Ochtervelt 1634 - 1682, Oxford 1979, p. 92, cat. no. 93, reproduced p. 172, fig. 104;
O. Ydema, Carpets and their datings in Netherlandish Paintings 1540-1700, Zutphen 1991, p. 169, cat. no. 588;
E. Schavemaker, One hundred master paintings, Noortman Master Paintings, Maastricht 2007, pp. 216-219, cat. no. 46.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts (inv. no. 297.53), on loan 1953-74.

In a formal Dutch interior a couple pay a duet, the young woman seated, playing the lute, looking up at a young man playing the violin. A maid enters through a doorway to the left with a tray bearing a glass of beer and carrying a porcelain jug with silver mounts. The subject alludes to the age old adage “if music be the food of love..,” the message being that the couple share more mutual interests than music.

The map on the back wall has not been identified, but the decorative figures at the left: Neptune and Amphitrite riding on a shell and Triton blowing on his conch; are derived from the title cartouche at the upper right of Claes Jansz. Visscher’s map of the Dutch Seven Provinces (Germania Inferior), a map that Ochtervelt included in four other paintings.1
The Persian carpet with a floral border draped over an unseen table in the left foreground and dominating the left-hand half of the composition, serves to give convincing depth and volume to the room that the musicians occupy. In this and in many other facets, this painting reflects the influence of Johannes Vermeer. Ochtervelt was certainly well aware of Vermeer’s work when he lived in Rotterdam, where he was born and lived until the 1670s, although his early work is more informed by another Leiden genre painter, Frans van Mieris. By 1674 Ochtervelt and his wife had moved to Amsterdam, where other artists who were influenced by and influenced Vermeer, such as Pieter de Hooch, had settled. The present picture is clear evidence of Ochtervelt's debt to Vermeer. Like a number of paintings by Ochtervelt of similar subjects incorporating musical interiors, this work was painted in Amsterdam in the second half of the 1670s, circa 1676-80, as Susan Donahue Keretsky has confirmed.2


Leon Lilienfeld was an internationally known scientist, who inter alia undertook pioneering work in the understanding of cellulose. Following his marriage to Antonie, a noted Czech chemist, the couple lived in Vienna, amassing a highly distinguished collection of Old Masters, of which the art historian Gustav Glück published a catalogue in 1917. As the anti-semitic atmosphere in Vienna grew ever more hostile following the Anschluss, the couple moved to Milan in 1938, leaving most of their possessions behind. Dr Lilienfeld died in the same year, but Antonie managed to escape via Switzerland to the USA, and was living in Boston in 1945, where she settled. She managed to recover much of their collection, placing a number of pictures including this one on long-term loan to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, to whom in 1966 she presented a celebrated Frans Hals portrait in memory of her husband.

This painting was recently cleaned by Henry Gentle. Removal of old overpaint uncovered several significant pentimenti, including to the right leg of the violinist, which was originally further to the viewer’s left, to his coat, originally slightly to the left and of which a tail descended much lower towards the floor. Ochtervelt originally left a reserve to the left of the lute-player’s head, suggesting that he originally intended it to be angled back in order to look up at the violinist. There are also changes to the profile of the back of the maid.


1. Donahue Keretsky, 1979, p. 92.
2. See Donahue Keretsky, 1979, pp. 69-70, 76, 80, 85, nos 40, 54, 63, 75, all reproduced.

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