Although the composition is very close to that of a painting once in the collection of Lord Northbrook (fig. 1)1, the drawing must have been made as the design for an unexecuted etching. The outlines of the doorway, the figures within it, and the children in the foreground are all indented for transfer, but not those of the hurdy-gurdy player himself, suggesting that the artist was still working out his composition. In the end, no related print seems to have been completed, although there are close similarities of format and mood with etchings such as the Peasant leaning on his Doorway (B.9), the Mother with two Children (B.14) and The Doll (B.16), the last of which is dated 1679.
Whether this drawing or the Northbrook painting came first remains a matter of speculation. Ostade could have made the drawing first as a design for a print, and then, having decided against going ahead with the print, have recycled it as the basis for a painting. Or he could have made the painting first, and then considered making a related print. Either way, though, this very appealing drawing captures the essence of Ostade's engaging style and accomplished draughtsmanship.
1. W. Bernt, The Netherlandish Painters of the Seventeenth Century, London/New York 1970, vol. II, no. 887
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