Object Image

A Woman scraping Parsnips, with a Child standing by her

At first glance, this dark room might seem bare and forbidding but the deep brown of the walls encloses the two figures in warmth and serenity. There's just enough light to reveal them, but Maes doesn't show the window, so the comfortable atmosphere isn't disturbed. The concentration of woman and child, their gaze directed intently downwards, takes our own eyes to the woman's hands. She holds a parsnip delicately, scraping it away from her so that the peel lands in the dish in her lap. And we, like the little girl, learn how it should be done.

At this time, Calvinist preachers recommended that 'the devil should be beaten out of a child', but genre pictures of this kind showed a gentler attitud...

Oil on oak
35.6 x 29.8cm
Image and text © The National Gallery, London, 2024

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