About This Artwork

Willem van Mieris
Dutch, 1662-1747

A Mother Feeding her Child (The Happy Mother), 1707

Oil on panel
56.9 x 48.4 cm (22 3/8 x 19 1/16 in.)
Inscribed, center, along top of bed: W. van Mieris. Fe Anno 1707

Gift of Edson Keith, 1890.42

Willem van Mieris employed the refined, enamel-like painting technique associated with the artists of Leiden, achieving a surface that shows no obvious traces of the brush. His father, Frans van Mieris, was also a leading practitioner of this manner. Whereas Frans’s subjects were often satirical, Willem responded to the fashion for more dignified, classicizing subjects that emerged in the last decades of the 17th century. In this traditional domestic interior, Willem treated the middle-class mother and her children as rather elegant, generalized types. Paintings by the Van Mieris family and other examples of Leiden “fine painting” were much sought after by 18th century collectors.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Art Institute of Chicago, December 1893–January 1894, no. 156.

Indianapolis, John Herron Art Museum, Dutch Paintings, Etchings, Drawings, Delftware of the Seventeenth Century, February 27–April 11, 1937, no. 45.

Publication History

Johan van Gool, De nieuwe schouburg der Nederlantsche kunstschilders en schilderessen (The Hague, 1750), p. 193–94.

Gerard Hoet, Catalogus of naamlyst van schilderyen (The Hague, 1752; reprint Soest, 1976), p. 361, no. 73.

“Famous Pictures for Chicago,” Chicago Daily Tribune, July 3, 1890 in scrapbooks maintained by Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, Art Institute of Chicago.

“Notes on Current Art,” Chicago Daily Tribune, July 6, 1890, p. 32.

“Chicago an Art Center,” Chicago Daily Tribune, November 9, 1890, p. 1.

V. V. H., “Inventaires de tableaux dressés par Spruyt,” in Messager des Sciences Historiques, ou Archives des Arts et de la Bibliographie de Belgique (Ghent, 1892), p. 247, no. 64.

Art Institute of Chicago, General Catalogue of Objects in the Museum (Chicago, 1901), pp. 142–43, no. 8.

Art Institute of Chicago, General Catalogue of Objects in the Museum (Chicago, 1904), pp.148–49, no. 8.

Art Institute of Chicago, Important Facts Regarding the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, 1905), pp. 2, ill., 9.

Art Institute of Chicago, General Catalogue of Sculpture, Paintings and other Objects (Chicago, 1907), p. 159–60.

Art Institute of Chicago, Catalogue of Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture and Architecture (Chicago, 1917), p. 112, no. 8.

Art Institute of Chicago, Handbook of sculpture, architecture, paintings, and drawings, part 2 (Chicago, 1920), p. 18, no. 8.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Guide to the Paintings in the Permanent Collection (Chicago, 1925), p. 146, no. 8.

C. Hofstede de Groot, Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts, vol. 10 (Stuttgart and Paris, 1928), p. 166, no. 233.

H. Gerson, “Mieris, Willem van,” in Thieme-Becker, Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler 24 (Liepzig, 1930), p. 541.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Guide to the Paintings in the Permanent Collection (Chicago, 1932), p. 163.

Marie-Rose Thielemans, “Un inventaire: La galerie des tableaux d’Emmanuel Vander Meersche de Berlaere en 1787,” in Revue Belge d’Archéologie et d’Histoire de l’Art 26 (1957), p. 192, no. 64.

Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago: A Catalogue of the Picture Collection (Chicago, 1961), p. 311.

C. Wansink, “Hieronymus van der Mij als historie- en genreschilder,” Oud Holland 99 (1985), pp. 204–05, fig. 6.

Peter C. Sutton, A Guide to Dutch Art in America (Grand Rapids, 1986), pp. 48, 53.

Eddy de Jongh and Ger Luijten, "Impressions of reality: genre prints in the Netherlands, 1550-1700" in Mirror of everyday life: Genre prints in the Netherlands 1550-1700, exh. cat., Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1997, p. 21, fig. 40.

Wayne Franits, Dutch Seventeenth-Century Genre Painting: Its Stylistic and Thematic Evolution (New Haven, 2004), pp. 227–28, 230, fig. 206.

Celia Hilliard, “‘The Prime Mover’: Charles L. Hutchinson and the Making of the Art Institute of Chicago,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies, 36, 1 (2010), p. 43.

Ownership History

David Grenier, Middleburg, until 1712; sold at auction, Middleburg, August 18, 1712, no. 73 for 32 florins [price given by Hoet 1752]. Jacques Clemens, canon of St. Bavo’s Cathedral, Ghent (died 1779); sold in his estate sale, Ghent, June 21, 1779, no. 170 for 457 florins to Rijsschoot [according to an annotated copy of the sale catalogue in the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, The Hague]. Emanuel-Augustin-Joseph van den Meersche, by 1791; sold in his sale, Salle de la Confrerie de St. George, Ghent, July 12, 1791, lot 103 for £335 to Rijschot [according to an annotated copy of the sale catalogue in Bibliothèque des Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels]. Countess Vilain XIV (died 1853), castle of Wetteren, by 1827 [according to the introduction of the catalogue of the May 2, 1857 sale of the collection of le Comte Philippe Vilain XIV]; at her death to her husband le Comte Philippe Vilain XIV (died 1856); sold in his sale, Pillet, Paris, May 2, 1857, no. 7 for 12,300 francs to the Marquis de Rhodes [price and buyer according to an annotated copy of the sale catalogue in the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, The Hague]. Presumably Prince Anatole Demidoff, Villa San Donato, near Florence (died 1870); by descent to his nephew Prince Paul Demidoff (died 1885) and later to Paul Demidoff’s widow Helena Troubetskoi, Pratolino, near Florence [according to an entry in William French’s 1889 travel notebook dated April 19, 1889, the painting was on view with the Demidoff collection in Pratolino, Art Institute archives]; included in the group of 13 paintings from the Demidoff collection sold to trustees of the Art Institute through Durand-Ruel, Paris in 1890; purchase price reimbursed by Edson Keith, 1890.

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