Stylistically, this animated scene is characterised by dashing, nervous penwork that only loosely follows the equally rapidly executed black chalk underdrawing, and by a powerful, bold lighting scheme, created with broadly applied washes. The figures themselves are also in a state of considerable animation, and the overall effect is strongly reminiscent of the work of Brouwer. It is therefore no surprise to discover that Dr. Bernhard Schanckenburg considers this one of the artist’s earliest surviving drawings, executed circa 1633-34, one of only six sheets that he dates before 1635. Other drawings from the same period, comparable in terms of style and execution, are in Rotterdam, Dresden and Frankfurt.1
Although many of the drawings that Ostade made later on in his career seem to have been conceived as independent works of art, a significant proportion of the artist’s earliest drawings are specifically connected with his paintings, and this is no exception. The current location of the painting in question (Hofstede de Groot no. 777) is not known, but the composition is recorded, in reverse, in the print by Jan de Visscher (fig. 1).2
Although this composition works very well in its own right, the motif of the woman holding her nose suggests that the picture may in fact have been conceived as one of a series of related depictions of the senses (this, clearly, being the sense of Smell).
A copy after this drawing is in the Art Institute of Chicago.
1. Schnackenburg, op. cit., nos. 3, 5 & 6
2. Hollstein vol. XLI, no. 19
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