signed lower right: D. TENIERS. F
oil on oak panel, in a carved wood frame
Baron E. de Beurnonville;
His sale, Paris, Féral, George, Petit, 9 May 1881, lot 498;
H. Pereire, Paris;
Baron de Neuflize;
With Galerie Knoedler, Paris/London, 1954;
Hans Kohn, Wassenaar, 1956-71;
Acquired by the present owner before 1980.
Catalogue of the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague 1960, no. 930;
M. Klinge, in P. Roberts-Jones (ed.), Bruegel. Une dynastie de peintres, exhibition catalogue, Brussels 1980, p. 265, no. 199, reproduced;
M. Klinge, Adriaen Brouwer - David Teniers the Younger, exhibition catalogue, London 1982, pp. 88-89, no. 28, reproduced;
P. Hecht, "New York and Maastricht. Brouwer and Teniers with Noortman & Brod", in The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXXV, no. 959, February 1983, p. 121, reproduced p. 118, fig. 67;
M. Klinge, David Teniers the Younger, exhibition catalogue, Antwerp 1991, p. 116, no. 34, reproduced p. 117;
De Brueghel à Rubens. L'Ecole de peinture anversoise, exhibition catalogue, Antwerp 1992, reproduced p. 207 (wrongly reproduced as an exhibited picture from the Musée de Strasbourg);
J. Mack-Andrick, in M. Klinge & D. Lüdke, David Teniers der Jüngere, exhibition catalogue, Karlsruhe 2005, p. 164, cat. no. 36, reproduced p. 165.
Painted when Teniers was at the height of his powers in the mid-1640s, this is a superb example of his genre painting. In a tavern interior two card players are watched by two of their companions, their attention focussed on the left-hand player, who is showing his hand with an air of hesitancy. The bold device of the brilliant white cap in the centre which the right-hand card player has slung over the back of his chair, draws our eye directly into the heart of the composition.
This is one of three similar pictures that Teniers painted within about a year circa 1644-5. The first of these, also in a private collection, and dated 1644, also includes the device of a white cap – from which it draws its traditional title Le Bonnet blanc – but placed at the left of the composition, resting on a stick projecting from an earthenware jug.1 Its owner is the same figure as in the present picture – slightly older than his companions, with a beard that is turning grey. The drama is a little less concentrated, with three further companions whose attention is divided between the two players, and the composition, anchored by the white cap to the left, is based on a more strongly accentuated diagonal.
The third picture, dating from 1645, is a more raucously animated piece, harking back to Brouwer, and with more figures, and painted on canvas on a larger scale.2 This time the same fellow is wearing his white cap, but one senses that the moment of concentrated and closely observed drama has moved onto a larger and less focussed stage. Yet all three pictures show, as Margret Klinge has observed, how intensively Teniers was preoccupied during this brief and intensely creative period, with composition, colour, figure drawing, and expression, all realized through nuanced variations on a single theme.
Teniers used in all three pictures and in many others from this period as well as earlier and later in his career an L-shaped space, with the principal action taken place in the shallower foreground space thus created, with subsidiary figures in the receding arm of the L.3 This device has its origins in 16th-century forbears such as Pieter Aertsen, and more recently Adriaen Brouwer, but Teniers made full use of it to concentrate our attention on the foreground figures by forcing them outward towards us. Here, in a composition divided laterally almost exactly into two thirds and one third, he uses the device of the white cap to mark the boundary between the foreground two thirds and background one third of the composition.
In her 1991 catalogue entry for this picture Margret Klinge admired Teniers' work of this period such as this one for its spontaneous – almost impressionistic – perception of nature and people, evident in details painted with the point of the brush, and in his rendering of tactile values. The brilliant state of preservation of this picture makes the fluidity and vibrancy of Teniers' brushwork easy to appreciate.
1. Private collection. Signed and dated 1644, oil on panel, 49 by 68 cm.; see Klinge, under Literature, 1991, p. 33, no. 114, reproduced in colour p. 115. Teniers used the same compositional format, and the same device of a white hat resting on a stick projecting from a jug, in another work from 1644-5, in Montepellier, Musée Fabre; see Mack-Andrick, under Literature, 2005, pp. 166-67, no. 37, reproduced.
2. Paris, Muséee du Louvre. Signed and dated 1645, oil on canvas, 56 by 78 cm.; see Klinge, op. cit., p. 116, under no. 34, reproduced.
3. The same L-shaped composition occurs in the Montpellier picture; see footnote 1 above.
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