Peasants before a Fire in an Inn
Adriaen van Ostade (Haarlem 1610 – Haarlem 1685)
At the heart of this scene of everyday life in a seventeenth-century Dutch tavern lies a wry meditation on human generosity. Standing before the hearth, the man in black looks longingly at the glass of beer being held up before him. To show he has no money purse about his person to buy a drink of his own, he holds out his empty hat and hoists up his jacket. That he is appealing to the charity of the men seated around him is confirmed by the parallel little scene to the right, in which a dog begs for a morsel of food from a child. The rollicking laughter of the men and the child’s smile are carefully rendered. Do these expressions betray cruel delight in the frustrated desires of others, or a good-natured moment before mercy wins out?
Oil painting on panel, Peasants before a Fire in an Inn by Adriaen van Ostade (Haarlem 1610 – Haarlem 1685), signed and dated on plank bottom left of centre: "AV Ostade 1668". The interior of a cottage with three peasants seated round a fire and a fourth standing with his hat in his hand; nearby is a child eating soup from a bowl placed on a chair, with a dog by his side; two peasants in the background in front of a window are playing tric-trac, with a third looking on.
Gerard Braamcamp sale, Amsterdam, 31 July 1771, lot 156, bought by Fouquet, with pendant (not to be confused with Ascott [NT 1535102] ex-Clarke picture); Prince de Conti sale, Paris, 8 April 1777, lot 308, bought by Dubois; Poullain sale, Paris, 15 March 1780, lot 46; Proly (or Proley) in 1786; Harris, London, sold 1805; de Blyny; J.F. Tuffen sale, Christie's, 11 April 1818, lot 104 (as from Orleans collection), bought by Pinney; Sir Simon Clarke by 1829; his sale, Christie's, 8 May 1840, lot 34, bought by Colliard (cf. Christie's MS catalogue; John Smith (1842) states that it was bought by J. Barchard, and de Groot, in his private copy of his catalogue, has noted 'to Colliard via Nieuwenhuys for Sr. J. Barchard according to Smith'); Schneider sale, Paris, 6 April 1876, lot 25, bt. by Lord Dudley; Earl of Dudley sale, Christie's, 25 June 1892, lot 16, repd, bought by Agnew, from whom acquired by William McEwan in 1893 for £2,887; The bequest of Margaret (Anderson) McEwan, The Hon. Mrs Ronald - later Dame Margaret - Henry Fulke Greville, DBE (1863-1942) from probate records linked with the donation of the property to the National Trust in 1943. This item found on the record for Polesden Lacey pictures, drawings etc., stored in the cellar, page 159.
Polesden Lacey, The McEwan Collection (National Trust)
Marks and inscriptions
unidentified seal with a bird holding a branch on its beak, (?) windmill, and monogram (?)JMB or JSCB (on reverse)
Makers and roles
Adriaen van Ostade (Haarlem 1610 – Haarlem 1685), artist