Though there is a scarcity of signed works by De Jongh, this painting is prominently signed and dated 1668, making it an important work in determining the artist’s artistic evolution. Lighter in tonality than his earlier interiors, the composition is punctuated throughout by the bright reds of the figures’ various garments and the curtains at left. The setting appears to be the interior of a tavern or inn, with figures gathered near a blazing fire. A young maid stands at center holding a jug in her right hand, her left hand on her hip. She does not interact with the three male figures, but directs her gaze towards the empty chair at left. An older man seated at center looks out knowingly at the viewer as he lifts his glass, while in the background a grinning young man emerges from a back room with his shirt untucked, implying that likely more than just drinking by the fire is going on. In spite of the merrymaking under way, there may be a moralizing message implied by the bunch of turnips depicted at lower right. In Netherlandish prints and literature of the period a pun was made on the Dutch word for turnip (raap) and the verb to scrounge (rapen), and turnips were sometimes used to signify greedy or distasteful behavior.1
Infrared reflectography of this painting reveals changes made to the lower left quadrant of the painting, in the area where the figure of the maid is gazing (fig. 1). The outlines of a jug and broom can be seen in the extreme lower left corner, and a draped table with the carcass of a duck, its head hanging limply over the near side of the table, can be seen where the chair is now positioned.
1. W. Gibson, Figures of speech: picturing proverbs in renaissance Netherlands, Berkeley 2010, pp. 59-60, 74-77.
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