Metsu's small, elegantly painted pictures are rich in narrative detail. Here, an unhappy debtor pathetically holds up a legal document, pleading for leniency. Hovering over his coins and strongbox, the stern old usurer, or moneylender, appears unmoved. In a society that greatly valued thrift...
Metsu's small, elegantly painted pictures are rich in narrative detail. Here, an unhappy debtor pathetically holds up a legal document, pleading for leniency. Hovering over his coins and strongbox, the stern old usurer, or moneylender, appears unmoved. In a society that greatly valued thrift and the wise management of money, the painting may have been understood as a warning against the excesses of both borrower and lender.
Center left, on paper: GMetsu (G and M joined)
April 9, 1687, anonymous sale, Amsterdam, lot 29. 1801, member of the Elias family; May 11, 1801, Elias sale [see note 1], Amsterdam, lot 46, to Cornelis Buijs (b. 1746 - d. 1826). 1860, Daniël Hooft (d. by 1860); October 30, 1860, Hooft sale, Cornelis François Roos, Amsterdam, lot 4, sold to Roos. Auguste Stevens (d. by 1867); May 1-2, 1867, posthumous Auguste Stevens sale, Hotel Drouot, Paris, lot 28, sold for 8400 fr., probably to Étienne Le Roy (b. 1808- d. 1878), Brussels [see note 2]. 1874, John W. Wilson, Paris; April 27-28, 1874, Wilson sale, Hotel Drouot, Paris, lot 61, sold for 40,000 fr. to Decamps [see note 3]. 1880, Paul Pavlovich Demidoff, 2nd Prince of San Donato (b. 1839 - d. 1885), Florence; March 15 - April 10, 1880, Demidoff sale, San Donato Palace, lot 1137, to Stanton Blake (b. 1837 - d. 1889), Boston; 1889, purchased under the will of Stanton Blake by the MFA. (Accession Date: December 24, 1889) NOTES:  In a letter to the MFA (August 26, 1996; in MFA curatorial file), Burton Fredericksen, Director, Getty Provenance Index, suggests that the painting was included in this sale. He identifies the consignor as a member of the Elias family, possibly Jacob Arnoudsz. Elias (b. 1728 - d. 1800) of Amsterdam, then recently deceased.  Étienne Le Roy was the expert at the Stevens sale. That he had owned the painting is according to Louis Decamps, "Correspondance," Gazette des Beaux-Arts 33, pt. 2 (1873), p. 279.  For the name of the buyer (very likely Louis Decamps), and for a transcription of the entry on the painting in the 1860 Hooft catalogue, see Adriaan E. Waiboer, "Gabriel Metsu (1629-1667): Life and Work" (Ph.D. diss., New York University, 2007), pp. 398-399, cat. no. A-14.
Sidney Bartlett Bequest