A Peasant Singing and A Peasant Woman with a Recorder
A Peasant Singing and A Peasant Woman with a Recorder

A Peasant Singing and A Peasant Woman with a Recorder

Adriaen van Ostade
1610 – Haarlem – 1685


A Pair. A Peasant Singing and A Peasant Woman with a Recorder


Oil on panel (roundels) 12.5 (diameter) cm


The man signed and dated right centre: AV OSTA[damaged] / 1637 [AV connected]
The woman signed and dated right centre: Av oƒtade / 1637

Sale London (Sotheby’s), 27 April 2016, lot 818 (as circle of Adriaen van Ostade)
Sale London (Bonhams), 2 November 2016, lot 29 (as circle of Adriaen van Ostade)
Private collection


These two hitherto unpublished tondi by Van Ostade are a significant addition to the master’s oeuvre. Dated 1637, they are early work and still strongly reminiscent of Adriaen Brouwer, who may have been his teacher. Many such loosely painted tronies by Ostade have been preserved. A pair, dated 1642, is in Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (inv. 1635-36). The present pair of roundels appears to be the earliest dated known example of such character heads.

Van Ostade hints in these small works at the tulip mania which held the Republic firmly in its grip in the year the artist executed these panels. The title of the song on the sheet the peasant is holding reads: ‘eniew liedeken [a new song] / ... / FLORISTEN OFT [florists or] / ...’. In the aftermath of the Tulip crash of 1637, which began in Ostade’s hometown Haarlem, songs began to appear mockingly accusing botanists of the misery they had caused when due to speculation with tulip bulbs so many people had lost fortunes.

Ostade was the fifth child born to the weaver Jan Hendricx van Eyndhoven and Janneke Hendriksdr. According to his biographer Arnold Houbraken, Ostade was a pupil of Frans Hals at the same time as Brouwer. Hals, however, at any rate does not seem to have exerted noticeable influence on Ostade. Brouwer on the other hand, having quickly developed as the heir of Bruegelian peasant art, became pivotal. By the early 1630s, Ostade had already established a reputation of his own outside his native Haarlem, having registered with the Haarlem guild of St. Luke in 1634. In 1636 he was a member of the militia company Oude Schuts. Two years later he married the catholic Machteltje Pietersdr of Haarlem. The artist is next mentioned in Haarlem records from 1640, when Salomon van Ruysdael sued him for default in payment of fourteen guilders for tuition and board. In 1642, Ostade and his wife drew up a will. She died the same year upon which the artist remarried in 1657 with Anna Ingels, also a catholic and from a wealthy family. In 1666, Ostade’s second wife died leaving the painter a substantial inheritance. His oeuvre, yet to be catalogued and studied in depth, consists of a large body of hundreds of paintings, about fifty etchings and about four hundred drawings and over 50 watercolours. Among his many talented pupils were his brother Isack, Cornelis Dusart, Cornelis Bega, Michiel van Musscher and Jan Steen.

It is my pleasure to confirm the attribution to Adriaen van Ostade (1610-1685) of the roundels of a peasant singing and of a woman with a flute, each on panel, round, 12,5 cm (figs. 1 and 2), which I have inspected in person, on 14th August of this year. The panel with the man is signed and dated AV OSTA[damaged] / 1637 (AV connected), that with the woman Av oƒtade / 1637. Both types of signatures occur on other van Ostade paintings from the period. The colour and handling of this pair are fully characteristic for the artist in the later 1630s. There are no other single figure paintings known from this period, although a tronie (character head) in the Kremer collection (o/p, 15 x 11 cm), generally dated to the 1640s, but perhaps slightly earlier (fig. 3), is clearly related, while a tronie of a peasant with a jug (o/p, 17 x 14 cm, signed and dated 1640, with Noortman, Maastricht in 1993) is also similar and handling and with the same signature as found on the woman in this pair. The lack of such single figures from c. 1637 makes comparison difficult, but other genre scenes from the later 1630s provide a good comparison. In any case, the figure types fit perfectly for the period, compare, for instance a painting from c. 1638, sold in Paris in 2015 (o/p, 19,5 x 24,5 cm, fig. 4) as well as a painting from 1638 in the Prado in Madrid (signed and dated, o/p, 20 x 40 cm, inv. no. 1517, fig. 5). While the pair clearly shows a woman playing and a man reading or singing, the title of the page the peasant is holding, clearly shows that he is singing, as it reads ‘eniew liedeken / ... / FLORISTEN OFT / ...’ (my transcription, fig. 6). This obviously refers to one of several songs mocking botanists after the Tulip crash of 1637 (due to speculation with tulip bulbs a lot of people had lost lots of money), for
instance, Twee nieuwe Liedekens van de Floristen, met een Liedeken teghen de verachters der Floristen was published in Hoorn in 1637, the same year in which this pair of small paintings was dated.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 5

Figure 6