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There are lots of examples in Dutch seventeenth-century painting of artists using images of sleeping women for satirical purposes – to emphasise neglect of their moral duties. That is not the case here. Van Brekelenkam was more concerned with paying homage to diligent housekeepers: this woman has clearly not fallen asleep through drunkeness, laziness or neglect but because she is tired from work. Her kitchen is neat and ordered and she has laid out supper on a neatly pressed linen cloth. Her domestic chores done, she has nodded off while studying the Bible.
A Woman Asleep by a Fire
Oil on oak
H 43.7 x W 32.8 cm
Salting Bequest, 1910