“The Protestant Dutch had a reputation for strict social conduct. Demonstrations of emotion were encouraged only on rare occasions such as betrothal, when a suitor must prove his passion. This painting [The Intruder by Gabriel Metsu] chronicles such a prearranged “transgression” among the wealthy classes of Amsterdam. A cavalier bursts into his beloved’s bedroom, much to the amusement of an older woman, perhaps her mother. A housekeeper, identified by keys dangling from her apron, playfully pretends to restrain him.
The sumptuous bedroom contains a number of objects serving as symbols that would be immediately understood in Dutch high society. The dog is surely an emblem of fidelity, while the unlit candle implies virginity. To maintain order in this complex pantomime, the figures are arranged along a diagonal axis.”