His deceased sale, Utrecht, Lamme, 6 May 1839, lot 309 for 880 florins;
Municks van Cleef, Utrecht;
His deceased sale, Utrecht, Paris, 4 April 1864, lot 88, for 3,350 francs;
With D. Katz, Dieren;
Mrs. A. Ongering-Schwarte (1890-1967), by 1958;
By whom sold, London, Sotheby's, 26 March 1969, lot 81, for £20,000 to Tan Bunzl;
Miss A. C. Innes;
Sold by order of her Executors, London, Christie's, 7 July 1972, lot 26, for 30,000 Guineas to Jermyn;
Mrs. George F. Getty II;
By whom sold, London, Christie's, 28 November 1975, lot 87 for £26,000;
Private Collection, New York, until sold, New York, Sotheby's, 12 January 1979, lot 126 for $85,000;
With Richard Green, London by 1980;
Acquired by the parents of the present owners in the early 1980s.
St. Louis, Art Museum, on loan 1973-5.
C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné..., vol. I, London 1907, p. 198, no. 742;
K. Braun, Alle tot nu bekende schilderijen van Jan Steen, Rotterdam 1980, p. 90, no. 31, reproduced p. 91.
While Jan Steen painted pictures with a more dominant landscape content such as this one in the earlier part of his career, the understated sophistication of this work and its underlying mood shows that by the time he painted it he had attained a considerable degree of maturity. Braun's dating of this work to circa 1650-54 is convincing, although from 1653 onwards Steen's figures become larger than here, and stay that way, so this picture probably dates from the first quarter of the 1650s.1 At that time Steen, who had just married the daughter of the landscape painter Jan van Goyen, was living in the Hague.
Although the game played outside the inn is rightly called kolf, it seems to be a rather different game to the one played on ice and to be seen in winter landscapes by Steen's contemporaries. Kolf as seen here was a popular game often played in the gardens of inns, and may be, as Braun suggests, perhaps the precursor of "mini-golf".2 In fact, the game of kolf survives in The Netherlands, although it has evolved substantially since the 17th Century, and like the modern game of golf, has little in common with its antecedent.
Steen's family were brewers, as Steen was himself briefly to become in Delft (and he later became an innkeeper), and the subject matter of this picture was no doubt more than familiar to him. By this date Steen was already treating his figures in a comic, caricatural manner, and this can be seen in several of the figures here, especially perhaps in the protuberant jaw of the peasant playing the ball. Although there is no documentary support for the hypothesis, it is tempting to see in works like this one stylistic evidence that Steen may have studied with Ostade in Haarlem. It is perhaps more likely that Steen noticed Ostade's prints of scenes outside taverns. It may be worth noting too that while Steen married Jan van Goyen's daughter, and the two painters are said to have been friends, there is no stylistic evidence whatsoever that Van Goyen influenced the landscapes of his son-in-law in any painting.
1. See under Literature.
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