Couple at the Clavichord
The current oil on canvas painting is a 19th-century reproduction of Jan Barentsz. Muyckens’s (1595–1665) 1648 panel, Portrait of a Man Playing the Clavichord with His Wife. Muyckens was born in the city of Leiden, but he pursued his career as a painter and etcher in Amsterdam. He was active between 1618 and 1648, and primarily painted portraits and religious scenes. Muyckens’s panel painting is housed in the Kunstmuseum Den Haag in The Hague. The picture conveys a middle-aged couple sitting at a clavichord. Each figure wears a ring, marking a marital bond between the two individuals. Moreover, both figures are dressed in black clothes to further underline their conjugal status. The man sits directly in front of the keyboard instrument, while the woman is positioned at the side of the clavichord closest to the viewer. She holds open a psalm book in her lap and raises her right hand to count the beat. Both figures look out at the viewer, as we have temporarily interrupted the couple’s melodic session. The present rendition of Muyckens’s artwork is a faithful interpretation of the original version. Aside from the facial appearance of the characters and Muyckens’s monogram – which does not appear on the current painting – the author of this work effectively recreates the scene. The man’s fingers are placed on the same keys of the clavichord, the woman’s hand gestures are mirrored, and the lid of the musical instrument is equally elaborate in design. A neat piece to add to any art enthusiast’s collection.
At this time, the Thirty Years War (1618–1648) came to an end in the German province of Westphalia. This 17th-century conflict remains one of the longest and most brutal wars in human history. The war was primarily fought between Roman Catholic and Protestant countries, with the Dutch playing a major role. The Thirty Years War radically changed the political arrangements of the continent and introduced the structuring of modern Europe as a community of sovereign states.