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Still life of fruit and a pie on a table

The Royal Collection has a stunning collection of seventeenth century Dutch art

Hendrick Pot (Haarlem c.1585-Amsterdam 1657)

Lady and Gentleman in an Interior, 'A startling Introduction' c.1632

RCIN 405520

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The subject of this work is difficult to explain. The woman points a dagger at herself and a man stands back in exaggerated horror, raising his hands and dropping his hat. Clearly he has been in the room for some time – his cloak and sword are placed on the chair seen on the opposite side.

Pot has scattered objects throughout the room as if providing clues as to what is going on. The broken rose on the ground, the girdle and wine glass on the table, and the hound importuning the lady’s lapdog denote an erotic context. Possibly there is a literary or dramatic source, but the only one suggested, The Palace of Pleasure by Matteo Bandello (1566) seems too early in date.