Brawl - Adriaen van Ostade

Brawl by Adriaen van Ostade - Genre Paintings from Hermitage Museum

Painting Detail

Artist: Adriaen van Ostade
Medium: Painting, Oil on panel, 25x33.5 cm
Date: 1637
Genre: Genre Painting
Source: Monplaisir Palace, Peterhof, 1882

Seventeenth-century Dutch genre scenes were so varied that they could both answer the taste of some renowned client and amuse the more simple purchaser. The Brawl is a small masterpiece in the so-called peasant genre, of which Adriaen van Ostade was the founder.

This "battle" between drunken peasants seems both angry and comical. The four participants are shown at a moment of heightened anger - note the angular, broad gestures, the faces twisted as the men shout out loud - yet at the same time the pale colours somewhat soften the sharpness of the image, emphasizing the everyday nature of the situation.

Such scenes introduced a new hero to Europe - the Dutch peasant, whom van Ostade did not always show in such a grotesque manner. An example of a somewhat more romanticised attitude to the peasant theme is another Hermitage masterpiece by the same artist, Village Concert.

Dutch art introduced a new understanding of allegory, unconnected with the traditional characters from mythology or with historical figures. This brawl scene by Adriaen van Ostade is perhaps also an allegory for one of the five senses - touch.