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Carousing Peasants

Carousing Peasants, c. 1630

Adriaen van Ostade
Dutch, 1610-1685
Oil on panel
16-1/2 x 23-1/8 in. (41.9 x 58.7 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
© The Norton Simon Foundation

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In a rustic interior, a few peasants playfully socialize and drink. Daylight floods the middle of the room, entering through an unseen casement window that has our same vantage point. At the hearth in the background, others are quietly occupied with chores. Ostade evokes the sensation of noise and confusion in the foreground by employing diagonals to describe the room, and to articulate the gestures and postures of the raucous peasants. Exaggerated facial expressions and deft, loose brushwork contribute to the impression of this boisterous scene. Adriaen van Ostade was one of the greatest painters of peasant genre subjects in the Dutch Golden Age. Carousing Peasants exemplifies his early style and the type of low-life scene he produced at the outset of his career.

Though the intention of this type of subject has been debated, they were likely created for comic purpose, to entertain an educated audience at the expense of the peasant. Sophisticated viewers could console themselves by distinguishing their decorum and productivity to the idle, ‘natural’ behavior of the peasant.

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