Max Zürcher, Luzern, his cat. no. 46 ;
Anonymous sale, Zurich, Koller, 28 May 1976, lot 5342 ;
With David Koetser, Zurich, 1976;
Private collection, Switzerland;
With David Koetser, Zurich, 2002;
From whom bought by the present owner.
This is one of a series of studies of small-scale single figures that Ostade produced relatively late in his career. He had in fact painted studies of single figures throughout much of his life, but the earlier ones are more strongly caricatural, depicting raucous, drunken peasant types. While the element of caricature is always present, later pictures such as this depict more prosperous types, often lawyers or scholars, reading or, as here, enjoying a quiet drink and a smoke at the end of the day. Ostade's pictures portray types of people and are almost never portraits. The physiognomy of the present elderly man for example, with his lozenge-shaped sunken eyes, resolute chin, small mouth and high forehead, can be found in numerous other pictures as a man of varying age; so many of them, in fact, that one wonders if he has used his own features, here at the age of about sixty.
When this picture was with Koetser in 1976, it was described as being dated 1676 or 1678. No trace of the date is now visible, and on grounds of style Dr. Hiltraud Doll, who confirms the attribution, prefers a dating around 1670. She will include this picture in her forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the paintings of Adriaen and Isack van Ostade as no. 265.
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