Possibly his sale, Amsterdam, Schildereyn, 22 September 1783, lot 272 (with pendant), for 300 florins;
Adolphe Fould (1824–1875), Paris;
His posthumous sale, Paris, Charles Pillet (Commissaire-Priseur), 14–15 May 1875, lot 32;
Louis Freiherr von Rothschild, Vienna (1882–1955);
Confiscated on the orders of Adolf Hitler from the Palais Rothschild on Prinz-Eugen-Strasse, Vienna IV and taken to the central depot for confiscated art in the Neue Burg, Vienna in 1939 (inv. no. 2);
Assigned to the collection of the proposed Führermuseum, Linz;
Recovered by the Allies from the salt mines at Altaussee, Austria (inv. no. 4819) and transferred to the Central Collecting Point, Munich, on 15 October 1945 (inv. no. 9599);
Transferred out of the Central Collecting Point, Munich, on 14 December 1945;
Restituted to Louis Freiherr von Rothschild on 28 September 1946;
With Paul Brandt, Amsterdam, by 1950, from whom acquired by
Ivan B. Hart (1904–1978), Holland and Massachusetts;
Thence by inheritance.
F.F. Hofrichter (ed.), Haarlem: The Seventeenth Century, exh. cat., New Brunswick 1983, p. 112, cat. no. 93, reproduced;
C. Moiso-Diekamp, Das Pendant in der holländischen Malerei des 17. Jahrhunderts, Frankfurt 1987, vol. 40, p. 413, cat. no. B1 (with pendant).
Ostade was born in Haarlem in 1610, the son of the weaver Jan Hendricsz. van Ostade who came from the town of Ostade near Eindhoven. He probably studied with Frans Hals, alongside other leading members of the Haarlem school of genre painting, namely Adriaen Brouwer and Jan Miense Molenaer. By 1634 he was a member of the Haarlem Guild of Saint Luke, an institution in which he was to be granted the highest honours, being elected hoofdman (leader) in 1647 and 1661, and later deken (dean) in 1662.
This is one of a series of small-scale studies of single figures that Ostade painted in the 1660s and 1670s, relatively late in his long career. It has been published as forming part of a pendant with A portrait of an elderly lady in a red coat which sold New York, Christie's, 29 January 2014, lot 9, however it does not seem likely that they were conceived as such, even if they were possibly sold together in 1783. He had painted studies of single figures throughout his life, but the earlier ones were more influenced by sixteenth century comic low-life traditions and the strongly caricatured peasant types painted by artists like Brouwer. While the element of caricature is always present, later pictures such as this one depict more prosperous types reading, or as here, enjoying a smoke at the end of the day. Typical of this period, Ostade increases its immediacy by bringing the viewer in close proximity to the scene. The figure here seems amiable, even civilised; Ostade makes sure he does not appear socially unsettling or revolutionary, most likely to put his middle class purchasers at their ease. A similar late work exemplifying this more sympathetic portrayal of the peasant class, which also shows a smoking figure set against a simple grey background, is in the State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg (inv. no. ГЭ-4085).
The dignity of the peasant is made most apparent in the quiet bearing and the steady, although relaxed posture of the figure. However, his costume, his rough and irregular features, and the hooked, beak-like nose clearly identify him as pertaining to the peasant class. The fact that he is smoking also indicates this, as it was an act associated with the lower classes and often with social deviance. This notion was popularised in publications such as Roemer Visccher’s Sinnepoppen, published in Amsterdam in 1614, in which the depiction of a peasant smoking is accompanied by the motto 'Veeltijdts wat nieuws, seldon wat goes' ('There is often something new, but seldom is it anything good').
We are grateful to Dr. Hiltraud Doll for her help in cataloguing this work. Dr. Doll will include it in her forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Adriaen Jansz. van Ostade as no. 266.
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