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Rothenstein made a number of portraits of his family and close friends in which the interior is as important as the figure. In this painting the artist’s wife Alice is shown with their first child John, aged about two. The interior is the family’s house in Hampstead. Without any narrative intent, the painting can be interpreted as a simple celebration of motherhood. Rothenstein greatly admired seventeenth-century Dutch painting, and the colouring, lighting and pervading stillness evidently owes a debt to Dutch painter Jan Vermeer.

May 2007