Lot 18
  • 18

Adriaen Jansz. van Ostade

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  • Adriaen jansz. van Ostade
  • a peasant family in a cottage interior
  • signed and dated lower right: Av Ostade / 1661 (Av in compendium)
  • oil on oak panel


Graaf van Wassenaer-van Obdam, The Hague;
Probably his sale, The Hague, De Hondt, 19 August 1750, one of 13 works by Ostade in the sale, but not exactly matching Hoet's brief description of any of them (see Literature);
Etienne François, Duc de Choiseul, Paris;
His sale, Paris, Boileau, 6 April 1772, lot 43, for 3,000 Francs;
Louis-François de Bourbon, Prince de Conti, Paris;
His deceased sale, Paris, Rémy, 8 April 1777, lot 309, for 3,600 Francs to Remy (=unsold);
Duc de Choiseul-Praslin, Paris;
His deceased sale, Paris, Paillet, 18 February 1793, lot 57, for 10,000 Francs to Maurice Montaleau:
Maurice Montaleau, Paris;
His sale, Paris, Paillet, 19-29 July 1802, lot 110, for 8,500 Francs;
Jeremiah Harman, Woodford, England, by 1815;
His deceased sale, London, Christie's, 17-18 May 1844, lot 100, for 1,320 Guineas to William Buchanan for Robert Staynor Holford;
Robert Staynor Holford, M.P. (1808-1892), Dorchester House, London and Westonbirt, Gloucestershire;
Thence by descent to his son, Sir George Lindsay Holford;
His deceased sale, London, Christie's, 17-18 May 1928 (1st day's sale), lot 27, for 4,200 Guineas to Agnew's, on behalf of J.S. Phipps;
Carel Goldschmidt, Mount Kisco, New York, by 1965;
His deceased sale, New York, Christie's, 11 January 1995, lot 112;
With Richard Green, London, by whom sold to the present owner.


London, British Institution, 1815, 88, lent by Jeremiah Harman;
Manchester, Art Treasures, 1857, no. 1047 ("Interior, Peasants after Dinner"), lent by Holford;
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Exhibition of the Works of the Old Masters, 1887, no. 102 ("Le Ménage Hollandois"), lent by Holford;
London, Burlington Fine Arts Club, Exhibition of Pictures by Dutch Masters of the Seventeenth Century, 1900, no. 35 ("Le Ménage Hollandois"), lent by Holford;
New York, National Academy of Design, Dutch and Flemish Paintings from New York Private Collections, 9 August - 25 September 1988, no. 34;
London, Richard Green Gallery, The Cabinet Picture. Dutch and Flemish Masters of the Seventeenth Century, 14 April - 7 May 1999, unnumbered, lent by the present owner.


G. Hoet, Catalogus of naamlyst van schilderijen, The Hague 1752, vol. I, p. 177, and probably vol. II, p. 401;
J.B. Descamps, La Vie des peintres, flamands, allemands et hollandais, Paris 1753-6, vol. II, p. 179;
J. Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné..., vol. I, London 1829, p. 136, no. 104 ("It is impossible to speak too highly of this gem; in luminous effect and brilliancy of colour and finish, it has never been surpassed");
G.F. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, London 1854, vol. II, p. 200 (" Remarkable for its sunny light, and as harmonious as it is transparent and powerful in colour");
C. Blanc, Le Trésor de la Curiosité, Paris 1857-8, pp. 161, 379;
T.E.J. Thoré (W. Bürger), Trésors d'Art en Angleterre, Brussels 1860, p. 314;
C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné..., vol. III, London 1910, p. 283, no. 463;
A. Graves, A Century of Loan Exhibitions 1813-1912, London 1914, vol. II, pp. 887, 891, and 892;
The Holford Collection, Dorchester House, with 200 Illustrations from the Twelfth to the End of the Nineteenth Century, [R. Benson, ed.] London 1927, vol. II, pp. 33-4, no. 159, reproduced plate CCLIV;
A Jensen Adams, Dutch and Flemish Paintings from New York Private Collections, exhibition catalogue, New York, National Academy of Design, 9 August - 25 September 1988, p. 99, no. 34, reproduced in colour p. 83;
C. Wright, The Cabinet Picture. Dutch and Flemish Masters of the Seventeenth Century, exhibition catalogue, London, Richard Green Gallery, 14 April - 7 May 1999, pp. 26, 196-7, reproduced in colour p. 27.

By Jacques Philippe Le Bas (1707-1783), when in the Choiseul-Praslin collection, as 'Le Ménage Hollandois';
By Bond, in Tresham's British Gallery;
By J. Fittler, in Forster's Engravings.

Catalogue Note

A prosperous peasant family is seen here taking their ease in a large cottage room, flooded with light from a large open window.  In contrast with many Dutch domestic interiors, no one is engaged in a particular pursuit or labour; this is a moment of pure relaxation.  The mother plays with her youngest child while its father looks proudly on,  watched by another adult; meanwhile a daughter plays with the dog, while her brother watches from the window.  The natural emphasis within the picture on looking and watching draws the viewer in, since we are looking at all of them.  Ostade's subject is family life, and it is tempting to interpret his depiction of it as virtuous, perhaps telling the viewer that familial joy is not necessarily dependent on material wealth.  It is not clear that Ostade intended a literal moral message of this kind, in the same way that his early raucous peasant revelries poke gentle fun at the inebriated peasants, rather than admonishing them (although a 17th-century etching after another painting by Ostade bears a legend, part of which reads in translation: "Yet we love our little child from the heart, and that is no trifle./  Thus we regard our miserable hovel as a splendid mansion"; which shows that such moralizing labels were put on Ostade's paintings in his own day; see W. Robinson, in Masters of Seventeenth Century Dutch Genre Painting, exhibition catalogue, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 18 March - 13 May 1984, p. 286).  Ostade never abandoned his earlier caricatural style of depicting his fellow creatures, so that his compact rounded figures and distinctive squashed physiognomies are always instantly recognisable and are types rather than individual portrayals, even in his later works.  Such an approach invites a moralising interpretation, but the present work is probably better understood as a simple meditation on family life at home. 

By the time he painted this picture, Ostade, who was in his early fifties, was particularly interested in subjects of domesticity and motherhood.  This interest is seen in his paintings, and perhaps more so in his etchings, the earliest of which, dated 1647, pre-dates the present more refined painting by a decade and a half.  Such works, often depicting a mother with a single child or two children, are inevitably more tranquil and contemplative than his earlier works.  The present picture combines this interest in parenthood with another of his concerns at this date: the convincing depiction of interiors.  He gives the substantial peasant room space and volume by the unusual technique of painting it in great detail, but in doing so he paints every surface: stone, plaster, wood fabrics and earthenware; with a full, almost forensic understanding of its texture, and how light falls on it and affects its surface.  He then uses light to flood the room itself, placing all the objects and the textures that make them up exactly where they should be within the fully defined space.

Ostade continued to develop the present theme throughout the 1660s and '70s.  A well-known picture in the Royal Collection, dated 1668, repeats the compositional scheme, with a family grouped around a low table in a large room lit by a large window seen at an angle to the left (see W. Robinson, op. cit., pp. 285-6, no. 91, reproduced in colour plate 29). 

This picture will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the paintings of the Ostades currently being prepared by Dr. Hiltraud Doll as no. 152.

A note on the Provenance
Dutch 17th-century cabinet pictures were enormously popular in 18th-century France, where, following the example set by the Duc d'Orléans, who became Régent following the death of his grandfather Louis XIV.  Ostade's pictures, along with those of Philips Wouwerman and Gerrit Dou, and the Fleming David Teniers, were among the most sought-after.  A substantial proportion of the best pictures by the first two were in French collections at some point in the 18th century.  Many of them, like the present work, were engraved by Le Bas and others when in the celebrated collection of the Duc de Choiseul, Louis XV's Minister of War and Foreign Affairs.  Choiseul's collection was substantial by the time of its dispersal in 1772 (following his fall from favour), but he was extremely discerning in what he bought, describing his attitude to collecting in a letter to his friend Nivernais in these terms:  "my taste is not for the mediocre ... I should prefer one beautiful picture to ten ordinary ones".

The Prince de Conti was also a leading figure at the Court during the reign of Louis XV (Choiseul, Conti and Louis XV were almost exact contemporaries).  A diplomat, he held the post of Grand Prieur de France, but tried unsuccessfully to get himself elected King of Poland.  He had a substantial and highly distinguished collection which was dispersed after his death in 1776, and many of his best Dutch pictures came to England: five are in the Wallace collection, and six in the National Gallery.

It is unclear when this picture came to England but it, as with so many other great pictures, probably came in the aftermath of the French Revolution and the Naploeonic wars.  It was in the collection of the banker Jeremiah Harman by 1829 when Smith wrote about it.  Albeit richly deserved, the lavish praise that Smith showered upon the picture may indicate that it was he who sold it to Harman. Another dealer, William Buchanan, himself responsible for bringing many great masterpieces to these shores, bought it at the Harman sale in 1844 for the young collector Robert Staynor Holford.  Holford put together a magnificent collection of Old Masters of all schools, which  Waagen considered to be second in Great Britain only to that of the Marquess of Hertford (now the core of the Wallace Collection), but possessing "a far greater universality of taste".  The Holford sale in 1928 was one of the greatest dispersals of Old Masters in England in the 20th century.