The Procuress

Dirck van Baburen (Dutch, 1590 to 1595–1624)


101.6 x 107.6 cm (40 x 42 3/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Oil on canvas

On View

Art of the Netherlands in the 17th Century Gallery (Gallery 242)





Baburen was one of several painters from Utrecht, in Holland, who went to study and work in Rome. Profoundly influenced by the Italian painter Caravaggio and his followers, they specialized in close-up views of large, half-length figures, solidly modelled with emphatic contrasts of light and shadow. Here, an amorous suitor barters with an elderly, turbanned woman for the favors of a cheerful young woman. The lute, symbol of love, occupies the center of the composition; the gestures of the hands that surround it tell the painting’s story.


Lower left, on base of lute: TBaburen f 16 [...] (T anb B joined)


1641, possibly Maria Thins (b. about 1593 - d. 1680), Delft [see note 1]; possibly by inheritance to her daughter, Catharina Bolnes (b. 1631 - d. 1688) and her husband, Johannes Vermeer (b. 1632 - d. 1675), Delft [see note 2]; possibly by inheritance to their son, Johannes Johannesz. Vermeer (b. about 1663 - d. 1713), Delft [see note 3]. Possibly Sir Hans Sloane (b. 1660 - d. 1753), London [see note 4]; possibly by descent within the Sloane family to Lt. Col. Ronald Francis Assheton Sloane-Stanley (b. 1867 - d. 1949), Cowes, Isle of Wight; February 25, 1949, Sloane-Stanley sale, Christie's, London, lot 52 [see note 5], to Colnaghi on behalf of Roderic Thesiger (dealer), Beaconsfield, England; 1950, sold by Thesiger to the MFA for $1960. (Accession Date: June 8, 1950)

[1] Maria Thins (or Tin) was divorced from her husband, Reinier Bolnes, in 1641. A document of November 27, 1641 that divides the marital property lists "A painting of a procuress pointing in the hand" ("Een schilderije daer en coppelerste die in de hant wijst"); this has been identified with the MFA painting. See Albert Blankert, Vermeer of Delft: Complete edition of the paintings (Oxford: Phaidon, 1978), pp. 145-146, document 7. However, Wayne Franits has cast doubts on this hypothesis, suggesting instead that the Thins family owned a replica of the MFA work; see The Paintings of Dirck van Baburen, ca 1592/93 - 1624: Catalogue Raisonné (Amsterdam, 2013), cat. A23, pp. 128-129.

[2] The artist Johannes Vermeer incorporated the MFA picture (or, possibly, a copy after it; see above, n. 1) into the background of two of his own paintings: The Concert, about 1665-66 (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston) and A Lady Seated at the Virginals, about 1673-75 (National Gallery, London).

[3] Ben Broos, Great Dutch Paintings from America (exh. cat. Mauritshuis, The Hague, 1990), cat. no. 5, pp. 149-152. It is not known for certain what happened to the articles in the artist's estate after his death; Anthony van Leeuwenhoek was the estate adminstrator.

[4] This painting has not been identified among the documents of the collector Sir Hans Sloane, but the fact that its owner in 1949, Col. Sloane-Stanley, was his descendent has led to the hypothesis that it was passed down in the family. When it was purchased in 1950, the painting's frame had an old, English language inscription on it, suggesting that it had been in England since the eighteenth or early nineteenth century. See Broos 1990 (as above, n. 3) and a letter from Thesiger to W. G. Constable of the MFA (March 15, 1950), in the MFA object file.

[5] Attributed in the auction catalogue to Honthorst.

Credit Line

M. Theresa B. Hopkins Fund