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Scenes set in brothels (called bordeeltjes in Dutch) were a popular genre in seventeenth-century painting. In this picture, two young women sit on the laps of their clients; the much older woman in the centre runs the business. Although the men are the paying customers, it is the women who are clearly in charge here. The younger ones both look directly at us with a knowing glance, while the brothel-keeper watches on wryly. The men are too drunk or distracted to notice who is running the show, or that we are watching them.
Oil on oak
H 32.3 x W 49.6 cm