The meaning of this scene by the ‘fijnschilder’, or fine painter, Schalcken would have been immediately clear to seventeenth-century viewers. It concerns the lesson being given to the young, fashionable woman, while she almost lets the little bird escape from its cage. The bird is symbolic of her virginity. The old woman standing beside her is raising her finger in warning and cautioning her against the dangers of love. But her lesson is useless – the young virgin is hardly listening.
Evert van Sypesteyn, Utrecht, until 1713; his sale, Utrecht, 11 April 1714 (Lugt 244), nos. 4-5 (450 guilders, together with inv. no. 161); Adriaan Bout, The Hague; his sale, The Hague, 11 August 1733 (Lugt 427), nos. 75-76 (for 930 guilders to Philip van Dijk for Prince William IV, together with inv. no. 161); Prince William IV, Het Loo Palace, Apeldoorn, 1733-1751; by inheritance to Prince William V, Het Loo Palace, Apeldoorn and The Hague, 1751-1795; both paintings confiscated by the French, transferred to the Muséum central des arts/Musée Napoléon (Musée du Louvre), Paris, 1795-1815; Royal Picture Gallery, housed in the Prince William V Gallery, The Hague, 1816; transferred to the Mauritshuis, 1822; on loan to the Gemeentemuseum, Arnhem, 1952-1977 (together with inv. no. 161)