Women of the Mauritshuis
This might seem like a casual everyday scene depicting a real situation, but there is a symbolic moral aspect to this image. In the 17th century marriage and family life were held in great reverence. The duties of a woman were glorified, described and depicted in glowing terms. You could therefore see this painting as propaganda, the image of the ‘ideal housewife’. It is good to remember that you’re looking at a 17th-century painting. After a visit to the Mauritshuis, you might be forgiven for thinking that 17th-century society was strictly divided. Men were heroes, women did the housework. The reality was less black-and-white, but this perception still exists to this day. It still tends to be mothers who search through their kids’ hair looking for those pesky little beasts.