Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis



First Advisor

Peter Hoyt


A number of important genre paintings from the Dutch Golden Age represent brothel scenes. These include Dirck van Baburen's The Procuress (1622), Hendrik Pot's Vanity (c. 1633), Nicolaus Knüpfer's Brothel Scene (c. 1650), and Frans van Mieris's Brothel Scene (c. 1658). Many of these--indeed all of the works just cited--not only incorporate the lute as an important aspect of the sex trade in the Low Countries, but also provide clues about speelhuizen, the underground "music halls where whores plied openly."

The significance of these representations has not been well understood. Wayne Franits, for example, in his magisterial Dutch Seventeenth-Century Genre Painting, minimizes the importance of musical instruments as represented in Dutch genre paintings of the time. This thesis, however, finds that such an attitude underemphasizes the important symbolic signification of the lute. By focusing on an important painting by van Mieris, as well as considering additional pieces, this study will demonstrate the importance of the lute in the seventeenth-century brothel. This thesis will also attempt to enrich the understanding of Dutch culture in the fields of art history and musicology.


© 2010, Alex D. McAllister