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A standing young woman being addressed by a a seated man in the presence of a seated, drinking, woman. Engraving by J.G. Wille, 1765, after G. Terborch.

  • Borch, Gerard ter, 1617-1681.
  • Pictures

About this work


Interpretation of the subject as "paternal instruction" is apparently due to Wille, as engraved in the lettering to this print. It was popularised by Goethe, in whose novel Die Wahlverwandschaften (1809) the characters enact a tableau vivant of this composition. However the seated man seems to be too young to be a plausible paterfamilias. In the original painting he may have been holding a coin, though this part of the painting is indistinct (both in the version in Berlin and in another version in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam). The coin might mean that the man is a customer in a brothel or that he is indicating a dowry. Possibly Wille though that "paternal instruction" was a more suitable interpretation for a print dedicated to the empress (Kelch, op. cit., and Hoff, op. cit.)


Paris (Quay des Augustins) : chez l'auteur [Wille], 1765.

Physical description

1 print : line engraving ; platemark 43 x 34.1 cm


Instruction paternelle. Peint par G. Terburg. Et gravé en 1765 par J.G. Wille graveur du roy. Dédié a sa majesté Marie Thérese impératrice Douairière reine apostolique d'Hongrie et de Bohème, archiduchesse d'Autriche, &c. &c. &c. Par son très humble, très obéissant et très soumis serviteur Jean George Wille. Le tableau original est dans le cabinet de M. de Peters, peintre de S.A.R. le prince Charles de Lorraine, gouverneur des Pays Bas &c.

References note

Ursula Hoff, 'Goethe and the Dutch interior: a study in the imagery of Romanticism', The Australian academy of humanities: proceedings, 1972, pp. 39-58
Jan Kelch, in Masters of seventeenth-century Dutch genre painting, Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1984, no. 9, pp. 144-145 and pl. 68

Lettering note

Bears coat of arms, presumably of the empress Maria Theresa


Wellcome Library no. 676861i



  • French

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