One of Haarlem’s most prolific artists, Adriaen van Ostade painted daily life in rural villages, from bawdy tavern and barn scenes to more dignified portrayals. In this peaceful domestic scene, a mother is cleaning mussels as two of her children and the family dog play nearby. An older sister entertains the baby while the father stands in the doorway watching over the scene. Laundry is drying on a line attached to the chicken coop, vines partially obscure a dovecote, and two beehives are stored on a shelf above the water pump. In contrast to the bricked-in urban courtyards portrayed by Pieter de Hooch (1629–1684), this well-maintained brick home has a hard-packed dirt yard, characteristic of a village dwelling. The painting exudes a sense of harmony and well-being.
Adriaen van Ostade entered the artists’ guild of Haarlem in 1634, probably after studying under Frans Hals (c. 1582/1583–1666). Van Ostade became the guild’s headman in 1647, and that may have been the occasion for which Hals painted the portrait of Van Ostade that is part of the National Gallery of Art collection (NGA 1937.1.70). Jan Steen (1625/1626–1679) and Adriaen’s younger brother Isack van Ostade (1621–1649), whose own scenes of village life can be seen at the National Gallery of Art, both studied with Adriaen. The two Van Ostade brothers paid remarkable attention to the texture of such common surfaces as thatched roofs, crumbling bricks, and cracked window panes.
Situated within the earthen courtyard of a vine-covered cottage is a tender vignette of domestic harmony and tranquility. The mother at the center of the family group busily cleans mussel shells in preparation for the evening meal. While the husband watches from the doorway of the wooden wall at the rear of the courtyard, an older sister cares for her youngest sibling as two other children play with the family dog. No comings or goings, no exceptional confrontations or other unusual circumstances provided motivation for this scene; rather, Adriaen van Ostade seems to be celebrating the peaceful existence of this family tending to daily life.
When writing about Van Ostade in the early eighteenth century, Arnold Houbraken marveled at the lively and spirited nature of the artist’s peasant scenes. To emphasize Van Ostade’s remarkable naturalism and tender view of country life, Houbraken compared his images of rural folk to those found in an early eighteenth-century pastural poem about a country kermis (fair).
Arnold Houbraken, De groote schouburgh der Nederlandtsche konstschilders en schilderessen, 3 vols. (The Hague, 1753; reprint, Amsterdam, 1976), 1:348. The poem by L. Rotgans, Boerekermis (Country Fair), was published in 1708. The identification of the poem was made by Broos in Ben P. J. Broos et al., Great Dutch Paintings from America (The Hague, 1990), 359.
Van Ostade almost certainly composed this work from various studies made from life; it was his practice throughout his career to make drawings of figures that he then used as points of departure for his paintings and etchings.
The drawings have been cataloged by Bernhard Schnackenburg, Adriaen van Ostade, Isack van Ostade: Zeichnungen und Aquarelle: Gesamtdarstellung mit Werkkatalogen, 2 vols. (Hamburg, 1981). For a discussion of Van Ostade’s use of drawings see Peter Schatborn in Douglas Lewis, The Drawings of Andrea Palladio (Washington, DC, 1981), 79–80.
As Robinson has noted in Peter C. Sutton and Jane Iandola Watkins, Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting (Philadelphia, 1984), 289 n. 4, the image was inspired by Psalm 128: “Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the side of thine house: thy children like olive plants round thy table.”
Van Ostade painted The Cottage Dooryard near the end of a long and illustrious career during which he created numerous drawings and etchings of rural life as well as paintings (see
The stylistic evolution, in many ways gradual and quite understandable in the broader context of Dutch art, does, nevertheless, raise questions about the changing nature of the artist’s image of country life. If, following Houbraken’s lead, one views Van Ostade’s images of peasants as poetic evocations of rural life that he has “thought up” rather than as descriptive reality, then it is important to try to understand his attitudes toward his subject matter.
Arnold Houbraken, De groote schouburgh der Nederlandtsche konstschilders en schilderessen, 3 vols. (The Hague, 1753; reprint, Amsterdam, 1976), 1:347–348. “Als ook de beeltjes in hunne bekleeding, en allerhande bedryven, zoo natuurlyk boers en geestig, dat het om to verwonderen is; hoc hy ‘t heft weten to bedenken.”
Arnold Houbraken, De groote schouburgh der Nederlandtsche konstschilders en schilderessen, 3 vols. (The Hague, 1753; reprint, Amsterdam, 1976), 1:347. Houbraken writes that Van Ostade left Haarlem for Amsterdam in 1662, but the explicit mention of the French invasion in his sentence makes it clear that he meant to write 1672.
One also wonders whether the exquisite watercolors
Bernhard Schnackenburg, Adriaen van Ostade, Isack van Ostade: Zeichnungen und Aquarelle: Gesamtdarstellung mit Werkkatalogen, 2 vols. (Hamburg, 1981), 1:41, 73 n. 111a, lists more than fifty such watercolors from the period between 1672 and 1684, and suggests that Van Ostade’s technique was influenced by the watercolors of Hendrick Avercamp (1585–1634). Broos in Ben P. J. Broos et al., Great Dutch Paintings from America (The Hague, 1990), 359, has noted that Constantijn Sennepart (1625–1703), the art dealer with whom Van Ostade stayed in Amsterdam after he had fled Haarlem and who purportedly suggested to Van Ostade that he make such watercolors, owned drawings by Avercamp.
Arnold Houbraken, De groote schouburgh der Nederlandtsche konstschilders en schilderessen, 3 vols. (The Hague, 1753; reprint, Amsterdam, 1976), 1:347.
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.
April 24, 2014
lower center: Av. Ostade 1673 (Av in ligature)
Marks and Labels
Adriaen Swalmius [1689-1747], Schiedam; (sale, Rotterdam, 15 May 1747, no. 2); Jacques Ignace de Roore [1686-1747], Antwerp; (his estate sale, The Hague, 4 September 1747, no. 84); Pieter Bisschop [c. 1690-1758] and Jan Bisschop [1680-1771], Rotterdam; purchased 1771 with the Bisschop collection by Adrian Hope [1709-1781] and his nephew, John Hope [1737-1784], Amsterdam; by inheritance after Adrian Hope's death to John Hope, Amsterdam and The Hague; by inheritance to his sons, Thomas Hope [1769-1831], Adrian Elias Hope [1772-1834], and Henry Philip Hope [1774-1839], Bosbeek House, near Heemstede, and, as of 1794, London, where the collection was in possession John's cousin, Henry Hope [c. 1739-1811]; by inheritance 1811 solely to Henry Philip Hope, Amsterdam and London, but in possession of his brother, Thomas Hope, London; by inheritance 1839 to Thomas' son, Henry Thomas Hope [1808-1862], London; by inheritance to his wife, née Adèle Bichat [d. 1884], London; by inheritance to her grandson, Henry Francis Hope Pelham-Clinton-Hope, 8th duke of Newcastle-under-Lyme [1866-1941], London; sold 1898 to (Asher Wertheimer, London); sold 1899 to Peter A.B. Widener, Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; gift 1942 to NGA.
- British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, London, 1815, no. 142.
- Art Treasures of the United Kingdom: Paintings by Ancient Masters, Art Treasures Palace, Manchester, 1857, no. 735.
- Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters, and by Deceased Masters of the the British School. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1881, no. 106.
- Loan to display with permanent collection, South Kensington Museum, London, 1891-1898.
- The Hudson-Fulton Celebration, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1909, no. 69.
- Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin; Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1984, no. 93, repro.
- Great Dutch Paintings from America, Mauritshuis, The Hague; The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, 1990-1991, no. 47, repro., as Courtyard with a Woman Cleaning Mussels.
- A Collector's Cabinet, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1998, no. 43.
- Hoet, Gerard. Catalogus of naamlyst van schilderyen. 2 vols. The Hague, 1752: 2:196, no. 2, 206, no. 84, 528.
- British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom. An account of all the pictures exhibited in the rooms of the British Institution, from 1813 to 1823, belonging to the nobility and gentry of England: with remarks, critical and explanatory. London, 1824: 186, no. 7.
- Westmacott, C. M. British Galleries of Painting and Sculpture: Comprising a General Historical and Critical Catalogue with Separate Notices of Every Work of Fine Art in Principal Collections. London, 1824: 239.
- Smith, John. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters. 9 vols. London, 1829-1842: 1(1829):158, no. 188.
- Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Works of Art and Artists in England. 3 vols. Translated by H. E. Lloyd. London, 1838: 2:335.
- Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Treasures of Art in Great Britain: Being an Account of the Chief Collections of Paintings, Drawings, Sculptures, Illuminated Mss.. 3 vols. Translated by Elizabeth Rigby Eastlake. London, 1854: 2:119, no. 3.
- Art Treasures of the United Kingdom. Exh. cat. Art Treasures Palace, Manchester, 1857: 56, no. 735.
- Thoré, Théophile E. J. (William Bürger). Trésors d’Art exposés à Manchester en 1857 et provenant des collections royales, des collections publiques et des collections particulières de la Grande-Bretagne. Paris, 1857: 315-316.
- Gaedertz, Theodor. Adrian van Ostade: sein Leben und seine Kunst. Lübeck, 1869: 157.
- Royal Academy of Arts. Exhibition of Works by The Old Masters and by Deceased Masters of the British School. Winter Exhibition. Exh. cat. Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1881: no. 106.
- Catalogue of Paintings Forming the Collection of P.A.B. Widener, Ashbourne, near Philadelphia. 2 vols. Paris, 1885-1900: 2(1900):234, repro.
- South Kensington Museum. The Hope Collection of Pictures of the Dutch and Flemish Schools with Descriptions Reprinted from the Catalogue Published in 1891 by the Science and Art Department of the South Kensington Museum. London, 1898: no. 76, repro.
- Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. 8 vols. Translated by Edward G. Hawke. London, 1907-1927: 3(1910):294, no. 503.
- Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Catalogue of a collection of paintings by Dutch masters of the seventeenth century. The Hudson-Fulton Celebration 1. Exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1909: xxviii, 70, no. 69, repro., 155, 161.
- Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Catalogue of a Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Old Dutch Masters Held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Connection with the Hudson-Fulton Celebration. New York, 1910: 16, 242, no. 69, repro. 243.
- Valentiner, Wilhelm R. "Die Ausstellung holländischer Gemälde in New York." Monatshefte für Kunstwissenschaft 3 (1910): 10.
- Wiersum, E. "Het schilderijen-kabinet van Jan Bisschop te Rotterdam." Oud Holland 28 (Summer 1910): 161-186.
- Graves, Algernon. A Century of Loan Exhibitions, 1813–1912. 5 vols. London, 1913-1915: 2(1913):887, 891.
- Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis, and Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Pictures in the collection of P. A. B. Widener at Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania: Early German, Dutch & Flemish Schools. Philadelphia, 1913: unpaginated, no. 28, repro.
- Hind, Arthur M. Catalogue of Drawings by Dutch and Flemish Artists Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum. 5 vols. London, 1915–1932: 4(1931):17.
- Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1923: unpaginated, repro.
- Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1931: 218, repro.
- Waldmann, Emil. "Die Sammlung Widener." Pantheon 22 (November 1938): 336.
- "Famous Widener Collection of Old Masters Given to the Nation." Art Digest 15 (1 November 1940): 11.
- National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. Washington, 1948 (reprinted 1959): 55, repro.
- Musée de l'Orangerie. Le paysage hollandais au XVIIe siècle. Exh. cat. Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris, 1950: 60.
- National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. Reprint. Washington, DC, 1959: 55, repro.
- Bille, Clara. De tempel der Kunst; of, Het kabinet van den heer Braamcamp. 2 vols. Amsterdam, 1961: 1:105.
- National Gallery of Art. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1965: 98.
- National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 86, repro.
- Buist, Marten G. At Spes Non Fracta: Hope & Co. 1770-1815: Merchant Bankers and Diplomats at Work. The Hague, 1974: 492.
- National Gallery of Art. European paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Washington, 1975: 256-257, repro. 257.
- Hoet, Gerard. Catalogus of naamlyst van schilderyen. 3 vols. Reprint of 1752 ed. with supplement by Pieter Terwesten, 1770. Soest, 1976: 2:196, no. 2, 206, no. 84, 528.
- Niemeijer, J. W. "De kunstverzameling van John Hope (1737–1784)." Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 32 (1981): 192 fig. 16, 193, no. 180.
- Schnackenburg, Bernhard. Adriaen van Ostade, Isack van Ostade: Zeichnungen und Aquarelle: Gesamtdarstellung mit Werkkatalogen. 2 vols. Hamburg, 1981: 1:127.
- Clark, H. Nichols B. "A Fresh Look at the Art of Francis W. Edmonds: Dutch Sources and American Meanings." The American Art Journal 14 (Summer 1982): 78.
- Clark, H. Nichols B. "A Taste for the Netherlands: The Impact of Seventeenth-Century Dutch and Flemish Genre Painting on American Art, 1800–1860." The American Art Journal 14 (Spring 1982): 25, 26 fig. 2.
- Sutton, Peter C. Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting. Edited by Jane Iandola Watkins. Exh. cat. Philadelphia Museum of Art; Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin; Royal Academy of Arts, London. Philadelphia, 1984: no. 93, 288-289, repro. 288, color pl. 31.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 287, no. 375, color repro.
- National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 295, repro.
- Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Washington and Grand Rapids, 1986: 308-309.
- Broos, Ben P. J., ed. Great Dutch Paintings from America. Exh. cat. Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The Hague and Zwolle, 1990: 355-359, no. 47, color repro. 357, as Courtyard with a Woman Cleaning Mussels.
- Broos, Ben P. J., and Marijn Schapelhouman. Nederlandse tekenaars geboren tussen 1600 en 1660. Zwolle, 1993: 130-131, fig b.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 187-191, color repro. 189.
- Westermann, Mariët. The amusements of Jan Steen: comic painting in the seventeenth century. Studies in Netherlandish art and cultural history 1. Zwolle, 1997: 158-159, fig. 82.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. A Collector's Cabinet. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1998: 67, no. 43.
- Quodbach, Esmée. "The Last of the American Versailles: The Widener Collection at Lynnewood Hall." Simiolus 29, no. 1/2 (2002): 79-80, fig. 31.
- Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Treasures of Art in Great Britain. Translated by Elizabeth Rigby Eastlake. Facsimile edition of London 1854. London, 2003: 2:119, no.3.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr., and Michael Swicklik. "Behind the Veil: Restoration of a Dutch Marine Painting Offers a New Look at Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art and History." National Gallery of Art Bulletin, no. 37 (Fall 2007): 4, fig. 3.
- Pergam, Elizabeth A. The Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857: Entrepreneurs, Connoisseurs and the Public. Farnham and Burlington, 2011: 215, 231 n. 67, 313.
- Renouard de Bussiere, Sophie. "Joueurs de cornemuse et de vielle, devant une ferme par Adriaen van Ostade." L'Objet d'art no. 474 (December 2011): 20, color repro.
The support is a moderately coarse-textured fabric, tightly woven in a plain weave. It has been lined with the tacking margins trimmed, but cusping visible in the X-radiograph indicates the dimensions have not been altered. The fabric weave is visible through the thick, smooth white ground.
The paint was applied in thin layers with no appreciable brushmarking or impasto. The vehicular pastes of the figures, architecture, and sky give way to fluid opaque washes in the foreground. Lean granular yellows and transparent green glazes were employed in the foliage. A pentimento is visible in the upper left tree.
The condition of the painting is excellent. Abrasion is slight, and losses are confined to the edges and an area of flaking around the foreground figures at right. In 1975 a double lining was removed and the support was relined. An aged surface coating was removed.
Related IconClass Terms
- household management
- blessings of peace
- the poor
- contrast between urban and rural life
- low life