1599 – Amsterdam – 1678
A Musical Company
Oil on panel (oval) 31 x 41.5 cm
Signed centre left with monogram on the music book held by the woman: PC
With M. Schulthess, Basel, c. 1930
Sale, Amsterdam (Christie’s), 1-2 October 1981, lot 115
Collection Ms. H.J. Konijn-Bunck, Amstelveen, 1983
C.B. Playter, Willem Duyster and Pieter Codde: the “Duystere Werelt” of Dutch genre painting, c. 1625-1635, (Ph.D. thesis Harvard University) 1972, p. 72, fig. 73
A. Sevcík, S. Bartilla and H. Seifertová, Dutch Paintings of the 17th and 18th centuries: Illustrated Summary Catalogue, National Gallery in Prague, Prague 2012, p. 92
To be included in the forthcoming monograph and catalogue raisonné currently in preparation by Dr Jochai Rosen, Haifa University
Two couples, obviously belonging to the jeunesse dorée of Amsterdam, have gathered to play and sing music. The young men and women are dressed according to the latest fashion enabling a rather precise date for our picture of circa 1629-32, for which we thank Dr Jochai Rosen.
Pieter Codde was a master in depicting the mundane pleasures of the urban elite and counts as one of the preeminent specialists of elegant genre scenes in the 1620s and 1630s in the thriving merchant city of Amsterdam. They invariably show merry companies of young and well-to-do ladies and gentlemen in interior settings and this work is a beautiful example. A hallmark, in evidence here as well, of these paintings, is the superb rendering of textures, the smoothly applied brushwork and the cool palette of silver greys and browns. Just like in many other high life genre scenes by Codde, the figures in our painting are amusing themselves by making music. An amorous overtone is never far away and in this painting the general atmosphere is one of courtship. Moreover, musical instruments such as the flute and lute were often used by artists in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as erotic allusions so Codde’s choice for these instruments will certainly not have been random. In many of his other genre scenes does Codde utilize imagery charged with sexual meaning that may be lost on the present-day viewer but would have been immediately understood and appreciated by the artist’s contemporaries. These double entendres were an essential part of the subject depicted and the Dutch genre masters had a particular preference for humoristic hidden messages. For viewers in the period, looking at such a scene and discussing its meaning would have been an amusing pastime.
The remarkable oval shape of the panel was en vogue during the first decades of the century, not only with genre painters, but with marine and landscape specialists as well. The shape invited the artist to strike a balance between a decorative and varied composition. Codde exploited the oval format in a novel way, moving the primary motif of the figure group to the left and reserving the mid and right sections for a veritable still life. A powerful light from the left floods the scene creating a play of fascinating contrasts.
Pieter Codde was baptised in Amsterdam on 11 December 1599 as the son of an assistant to the collector of beaconage, a form of harbour dues. He may have studied with Frans Hals, Cornelis van der Voort or Barend van Someren and is first recorded as a painter in the 27 October 1623 registration of his marriage to Marritge Aerents. Codde also moved in literary circles. In 1636 he separated from his wife. The following year, Codde was commissioned to complete the large civic guard painting, the so-called Meagre company, begun four years earlier but left unfinished by Frans Hals. Codde was one of the artists consulted by the art dealer Gerrit Uylenburgh in 1672 to appraise a group of Italian paintings. Codde made his will on 8 October 1669, and died nine years later. A painter named Albert Jansz is recorded as his pupil.