The Eavesdropper

Nicolaes Maes (1634-1693)

The woman descending the steps with her finger raised to her lips is probably the lady of the house. She is tiptoeing down from what looks like a household office and is just about to catch a maid neglecting her duties.

The lady in the foreground invites us into the painting and we can see the background scene of the maid and her lover in conversation while the baby’s cradle is ignored at her feet.

In the 1650s Maes painted six variations of this theme and was one of the first Dutch artists to show views into other rooms which contained part of the narrative of the painting.