Gabriel Metsu was a Dutch painter from the 17th century, he painted historical scenes, portraits, still-lifes, and genre works, proving to highly eclectic. It’s quite hard to pinpoint his style, for he was somewhat resistant to maintain a constant subject or style for long periods. Although he was a highly prolific artist and produced several paintings, some of his best-known artworks are The Old Drinker, The Sick Child, Man Writing a Letter, and Woman Reading a Letter.
Gabriel Metsu was born in the city of Leiden, Dutch Republic, in 1629. He was born into a rather artistic background, since his father, Jacques Metsu was a painter and tapestry worker and his mother, Jacquemijntje Garniers, was widowed by a painter and is believed that she was an amateur painter herself.
In 1648 Gabriel Metsu was registered as one of the first members of the painters’ guild at his hometown. Metsu ceased his subscription two years later. His more thorough training was probably in Utrecht, under painters such as Jan Weenix and Nicolaus Knupfer.
By 1655, Metsu moved to Amsterdam, where he lived in an alley near his relatives. Two years after an argument with a neighbor, who alleged Metsu left a brothel at six in the morning, he moved again. Shortly after, he would marry Isabella de Wolff, who was the daughter of Maria de Grebber, another Golden Age Dutch painter.
Around the 1660s, Metsu was inspired by the ar of the “fijnschilders” from his hometown Leiden. These works often depicted domestic scenes and genre subjects and were also made in smalls scales and with high precision and attention to realism. Metsu often painted young single women in daily situations such as grocery shopping or selling or feeding pets.
According to the Dutch painter Arnold Houbraken, Gabriel Metsu was trained by Dutch Golden Age painter Gerard Dou, though before 1653, one could not perceive his teacher’s influences in his artworks.
Another noteworthy mention regarding Metsu’s artworks is the rendering of carpets in his paintings. Carpets are a recurring image in his pictures. However, said carpets are painted in a more loose, painterly fashion, greatly contrasting with his precise and finely executed figures in his compositions.