This large, brilliantly composed and superbly executed drawing belongs to a group of similarly conceived works by Van Goyen, showing substantial groups of figures gathered by wayside inns, or in village settings. A number of these, including a fine sheet with which Hans-Ulrich Beck specifically compares the present work, are dated in the same year, 1651.1
By this relatively late stage in his career, Van Goyen was a total master of the combination of black chalk and grey wash in which almost all of his mature drawings are executed. Applying his sharpened, hard chalk to the paper with the subtlest of variations of pressure, he has here created a compositionally complex and densely worked, monochrome drawing that is also a superbly successful depiction of an immensely animated scene, full of flickering light, in which one can almost see the movements and hear the conversations of these lively peasants, drinkers and travellers.
As Beck noted (see Literature), a copy after this drawing is among the drawings from the Franz Koenigs Collection, held since the end of World War II at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow2, and another is in Edinburgh.3
1. Beck, op. cit., no. 211; sold New York, Sotheby's, 28 January 1998, lot 119
2. Five Centuries of European Drawings, the former collection of Franz Koenigs, exhib. cat., Moscow, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, 1995-6, no. 274, reproduced
3. Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland, inv. RSA 43; Beck, op. cit., vol. III, supplement, Doornspijk 1987, p. 59