Jacob Cats, ‘Reperire, perire est’, from Proteus ofte Minne-beelden verandert in Sinne-beelden door, p. 122. Rotterdam, 1627. Call #: STC 4863.5. Used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Representations of Adam and Eve identify the act of joining together in matrimony as involving both gain and loss. This was perhaps particularly true of the female experience, in which sexual knowledge was gained through the loss of virginity, a fetishised object.

This print shows a symbolic depiction of the loss of maidenhood, set – of course – in the bedroom! The maid peering in through a half-opened door suggests ways in which the bedroom was perceived as a location and source of intimate and somewhat illicit knowledge, potentially fodder for gossip, but equally capable of generating female solidarity and shared secrets.

The gesture and expression of the woman are wistful but delicate, while the curtain, the hint of a pillow and the flowers next to the bed evoke a mixture of affects, not entirely negative. The viewer gets a vivid sense of the suggestiveness of the bedroom for a history of emotions and sexuality in early modern Europe.