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Overview

Frans van Mieris (1635–1681) was one of the most celebrated Leiden fijnschilders ("fine painters"), whose elegant works are marked by smooth execution, invisible brushwork, and extraordinary attention to detail. His small paintings of convivial genres, portraits, and allegories delighted both local and international collectors with their lively, often ambiguous narratives. Gerrit Dou (1613–1675), with whom Van Mieris studied, described him as "the prince of all my pupils."

Soldier Smoking a Pipe, which dates from about 1657/1658, encompasses all the qualities that earned Van Mieris his fame. The intimate scale of this extraordinarily well-preserved painting, its high degree of refinement (particularly in the soldier's aubergine costume and the gold fringe of the nearby cloak), and its engaging subject are all characteristics of his finest works. The soldier is most likely a member of the local militia company, judging by the trumpet, banner, and armor on the floor. By the late 1650s, militia companies had a largely ceremonial role and were often called on by their cities to parade during times of celebration. The soldier's knowing gaze, paired with the deck of cards, half a glass of beer, and empty chair, suggest the aftermath of such an event, and invite the viewer to imagine a humorous, if unexplained, storyline.

This painting has the distinction of having been owned by Augustus the Strong (1670–1733), elector of Saxony and king of Poland. During the 18th century, paintings from his collection were given gilt frames with little doors by order of his son and successor, Augustus III (1696–1763). These frames could be opened with a graceful key, which enabled Augustus and his privileged guests to the study the paintings closely. Soldier Smoking a Pipe remains in this frame as a special reminder of its distinguished provenance.

Inscription

on the side of the chair: FvMieris

Provenance

August the Strong, Elector of Saxony [1670-1733, also King August II of Poland], Dresden;[1] by descent through the Kings of Saxony to the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden;[2] deaccessioned and exchanged 1927 with (Galerie Van Diemen, Berlin);[3] sold 20 October 1927 to August Neuerburg [1884-1944], Hamburg;[4] by descent in the Neuerburg family; (sale, Sotheby's, London, 9 July 2008, no. 28); (Richard Green, London) and (Johnny Van Haeften Ltd., London); sold 2008 to private collection, England; purchased April 2016 through (Johnny Van Haeften, London) by NGA.

Bibliography
1829
Smith, John. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters. 9 vols. London, 1829-1842: 1(1829):no. 76.
1848
Siret, Adolphe. Dictionnaire historique des peintres de toutes les écoles. Brussels, 1848: 603.
1861
Blanc, Charles, et al. Histoire des peintres de toutes les écoles. 14 vols. 1861-1876. Ecole hollandaise. 3 vols. Paris, : 23.
1863
Parthey, Gustav Friedrich. Deutscher Bildersaal. Verzeichniss der in Deutschland vorhandenen Oelbilder verstorbener Maler aller Schulen. 2 vols. 1863-1864: 2:127, no. 15.
1878
Lemcke, Carl. "Frans van Mieris." In Robert Dohme, ed. Kunst und Künstler, Deutschlands und der Niederlände bis um die Mitte des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts. Leipzig, 1878: 23.
1880
Gower, Lord Ronald. The Figure Painters of Holland. London, 1880: 112.
1880
Hübner, Julius. Verzeichnis der Königlichen Gemälde-Gallerie zu Dresden. Dresden, 1880: no. 1588.
1887
Champlin, John Denison, Jr., and Charles C. Perkins, eds. Cyclopedia of painters and paintings. 4 vols. New York, 1887: 3:265.
1896
Woermann, Karl. Katalog der Königlichen Gemäldegalerie zu Dresden. Dresden, 1896: 569, no. 1747(1588).
1902
Woermann, Karl. Katalog der Königlichen Gemäldegalerie zu Dresden. Dresden, 1902: 562, no. 1747(1588).
1905
Woermann, Karl. Katalog der Königlichen Gemäldegalerie zu Dresden. Dresden, 1905: 560, no. 1747(1588).
1906
Addison, Julia de Wolf. The Art of the Dresden Gallery. Boston, 1906: 316.
1906
Wurzbach, Alfred von. Niederlandisches Kunstler-Lexikon. 3 vols. Vienna, 1906-1911: 2(1910):165.
1907
Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts. 10 vols. Esslingen and Paris, 1907-1928: 1(1907):27, no. 93.
1912
Gemäldegalerie (Dresden, Germany). Katalog der Königlichen Gemäldegalerie zu Dresden. Dresden and Berlin, 1912: 172, no. 1747.
1927
Williamson, George Charles, ed. Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers. 5 vols. London, 1927: 5:336.
1932
Hourticq, Louis. Hollande en Histoire Générale de l'Art. Paris, 1932: 306.
1960
Plietzsch, Eduard. Holländische und flämische Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts. Leipzig, 1960: 52.
1977
Vries, Lyckle de. "Jan Steen, 'de kluchtschilder'." Ph.D. dissertation, Rijksuniversiteit, Groningen, 1977: 47, 128, no. 73.
1981
Naumann, Otto. Frans van Mieris (1635-1681), the Elder. 2 vols. Doornspijk, 1981: 1:44, 2:17, no. 13, pl. 13.
2005
Buvelot, Quentin. Frans van Mieris, 1635-1681. Exh. cat. Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague; National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2005-2006. The Hague, Washington, and Zwolle, 2005: 84, pl. 5b.