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The Account Keeper

Nicolaes Maes, Dutch, 1634–1693
Oil on canvas
Made in
Netherlands, Europe
Current Location
Not on view
26 in. × 21 1/8 in. (66 × 53.7 cm)
framed: 36 1/2 × 31 5/8 × 2 1/4 in. (92.7 × 80.3 × 5.7 cm)
Credit Line
Museum Purchase
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Object Number
A woman dozes off as she updates her account books. Carefully defined horizontals (the desktop and wainscoting) contrast with verticals (the cabinet door, the pillars adorning the desk front), to create a carefully structured composition. The paired inkwells on the table echo the spheres on the map, and the bowls on the shelf are seen in both profile and full-interior views, all suggesting deliberate planning rather than casual observation. Such conscious order is in risk of collapse since the ledgers seem on the verge of toppling to the floor. The painting was undoubtedly intended to invite reflection, although we don’t know whether this woman represents a widow struggling to make ends meet, an elderly woman evaluating her life, or the sin of sloth.
by 1827 - still in 1948
Count Christian Sternberg, Bohemia, Czechoslovakia; Sternberg family, by inheritance, Czechoslovakia, United States [1]

- 1950
Private Collection [2]

Mortimer Brandt Gallery, New York, NY, USA, purchased from private collector

1950 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased from Mortimer Brandt Gallery [3]

[1] In a letter dated November 5, 1980 the National Gallery in Prague provided detailed information about the provenance of this work [SLAM document files]. Initially the painting belonged to the collection of Count Christian Sternberg of the castle Zásmuky, Bohemia. From there it went on long-term loan to the newly established picture gallery of the Society of the Patriotic Friends of Art in Prague, Czechoslovakia. In 1827 the painting was included in a publication featuring the works on display at this gallery. In 1861 it was returned to Count Christian Sternberg. However, in 1864, the painting was published as still in the Patriotic Friends picture gallery [Parthey, G. "Deutscher Bildersaal. Verzeichniss der in Deutschland vorhandenen Oelbilder verstorbener Maler aller Schulen." Berlin: Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1864]. In 1948, the Sternberg family moved from Czechoslovakia to the United States [ Sternberg, Cecilia "The Journey" London: Collins, 1977].

[2] According to a statement from Mortimer Brandt Gallery dated April 8, 1950, this owner expressed the desire to remain anonymous and unpublished [SLAM document files].

[3] Bill of Sale, April 14, 1950 [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Administrative Board of Control of the City Art Museum, May 11, 1950.
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