We have strolled through a mid-17th century home and our ears have been alerted by the sounds of movement from one of the many rooms. The sounds are followed and we suddenly find ourselves in a brightly lit room whereupon a game of chess is in progress. The players, most notably the woman, are in the process of making a move. She has paused mid-move as she turns her head to look at us newcomers. The man at the back is in mid-gesture as he realizes what her intentions are and what it will mean to the outcome of the game they are engaged in. His hands are one of, perhaps, shock and surprise at the machinations of his opponent. The look on the woman’s face indicates that she has thought clearly and strategically about her move and the small smile suggests that she knows full well that the outcome will be in her favour. Off to the left of the work, a cat, warming itself by the fireplace, always a good idea in this era, glances over eyeing its mistress perhaps startled by the gasp of exclamation from the man. The light in this piece flows ever so warmly and calmly as it touches the smooth tiled floor and the small pile of logs and fire blower that sit at lower left. The upper, rear portion of this room is much dimmer suggesting a large but low window frame to the rear and left of the viewer. The light also gently touches the man’s silky looking cloak and the woman’s fur lined coat. At the back, in the dimness a lute sits silently waiting for music to be wafted gently from its wooden countenance. The room design suggests one of an upper middle-class Dutch household. Cornelis de Mann was born in Delft, Holland in 1621. He is one of the members of the Dutch Golden Age of painting and spent much his painting career abroad including Paris, Florence and for much of the time, Rome. Not much is known of his personal life apart from his many paintings including one of a whale oil factory of the Dutch East India Company. This was a copy of a Danish work and he re-set the landscape as appearing more arctic in nature than the original. In fact this was done with “artistic license” as he himself had never been further north than Denmark. The work shown here is extremely rich in detail and shows his prolific skills in capturing the intellectual challenge of a game of chess set amidst a home whose occupants could afford such leisure time for games.
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