Artists Illustrating Boys' Fashions: Gerard Terborch (Dutch, 1617-81)

Figure 1.--Terborch painted this Dutch study some time in the late 1650s. The boy is picking the fleas from his dog. Clearly it was something that the boy did regularly.

Gerard Terborch is another of the 17th century Dutch genre artists who painted detailed scenes of middle-class family life. They provide some fascinating examples of children's clothes. His paitings are considered to be very accurate depictions of both clothing and family life. Most of his painting are interiors giving us a very good idea of domestic life in the Netherlands. Unfortuntely only a few of his paintings feature children.


Gerard's father was at one time an artist and had even visited Rome to view the great masters. Apprently he was not successful and by 1621 had become a a tax collector.


Terborch is variously spelled Ter Borch, Terborch, or Terburg.




Gerard appears to have demonstrated artistic talent at an early age. He was apparentgly encouraged by his father who would have coached him. There are drawings made in 1625-26 which is father dated, undoubtedly with considerable pride. Gerard by 1634 was studying under Pieter de Molyn in Haarlem.


Terborch then traved, greatly added to his understanding of the great masters. He is known to have traveled to England (1635), Rome (1640), and Münster, Westphalia (1646-48?). At the time the peace congress ending the 30 Years War was in progress. The Peace of Westphalia was one of the major efforts to reconstuct a European system after a major conflict. session. One of Terborch's best known works was painted while he was in Münster, "The Swearing of the Oath of Ratification of the Treaty of Münster" (1648). It shows the Dutch and Spanish delegations signing the treaty. Terborch then traveled to Madrid, until returning to the Netherlands in 1650. Compare this to Frans Hals who never traveled beyond Holland.


Terborch had begun his career while traveling (1635-50). He returned to the Netherlands and by 1655 was living at Deventer. It was here that he did most of his Dutch work and after all of his travels, lived the rest of his life.

Body of Work

Terborch is noted for both portraits and genre studies of Dutch domestic life. His use of olor is restrained, no doubt affected by the sober coloring of Dutch middle-class clothing. As color was limited, he became a master at depicting textures. Note for example his rendering of satin. He did some guardroom scenes as a young painter in Haarlem, but soon developed a reputation for elegant small portraits. Art historians debate whether he was influenced here by Dutch painters like Hals or by his time in Spain. With his return home his genre scenes become elegant depictions of humble Dutch life, like the boy here picking flees from his dog. While his portraits are quite well done, most remember him for his wonderful genre paintings. Here he was no inovator, he was undoubted;y influenced by the work of the other Dutch genre painters. His work is notable simply by the fascinating scenes and the quality of the painting. One of his best known genre paintings is "Paternal Admonition".


Terboch has left us some wonderful genre scenes of everyday Dutch 17th century life. Most our middle class scenes, but we notice some scenes of both the working-class and aristocrats. We do not notice a lot of children depicted in his scenes. Perhaps the best known is the boy here picking fleas off his dog. We note a boy in a musical composition. We also note "Lady at her Toilette" which includes a page boy. It was painted about 1660. This appears to be an aristocratic portrait that we do not fully understand the scene. We don't notice anything quite like it in Dutch genre paintings.


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Created: July 26, 2003
Last updated: 11:24 PM 6/12/2007