This painting by Samuel van Hoogstraten is known as the 'Anaemic Lady'. A pale woman is hanging passively and lethargically in her chair, with her hands together. However, it is unlikely that she is ill. A doctor dressed in a strange, old-fashioned costume, is examining her urine to see whether she is pregnant. The man behind her looks with concern at the bottle. The situation is further clarified by the naked figures in the tablecloth and the painting above the door bearing an image of Venus, the goddess of love. A special role is played by the cat, often a symbol of sensuality. Like the mouse between its legs, this couple has been caught 'in the grip of lust'.Click to enlarge to wallpaper size. (via Morbid Anatomy)
For a long time this painting looked quite different. The woman's lover was invisible. He was probably overpainted in the nineteenth century, because it was not considered polite to refer so obviously to an unwanted pregnancy. The mouse too, between the cat's paws, was also hidden away so that the message was less clear. Without the man and mouse, the woman might be suffering from another illness. A fake doctor would have suggested something along the lines of a heartache to the viewer. The overpainting was discovered in 1988-89 during restoration.
03 March 2009
The Anaemic Lady - Van Hoogstraten