Adriaen van Ostade, Peasants Playing Gallet Outside an Inn, pen and brown ink with watercolour

Haarlem, The Netherlands, AD 1677

Adriaen (1610-85) and his younger brother, Isack (1621-49), reinvigorated the tradition of depicting 'low-life' scenes as Pieter Bruegel (about 1525-69) had done a century before.

The Ostade brothers were based in Haarlem, where Adriaen was probably taught by Frans Hals (1581/5-1666). They observed the local everyday scene with a sharp eye and fluent pen. Yet the scenes are not exact illustrations of what they saw day-to-day. Rather, they are carefully composed of selected motifs and figures, based on sketches from life or made up on the basis of the artists' experiences and training.

The peasants outside a country inn, though carefully observed, are mocked to illustrate immoral conduct. The figures in this drawing would have been regarded as time-wasters and idlers. The smoker in the foreground, enjoying his clay pipe, was a well-known symbol of laziness. The men to the right, under cover, play gallet. In the rest of the amusing scene, children play and adults drink and talk. The scythe which should be used in the fields on the harvest, hangs, conspicuously unused, above the pipe-smoker's head.

This famous watercolour is signed and dated (1677), which suggests that it was viewed as an independent work of art. An oil painting of the same subject by Adriaen, and also signed and dated, is in Apsley House, London.

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More information


J. Rowlands, Master drawings and watercolou (London, The British Museum Press, 1984)

M. Royalton-Kisch, Adriaen and Isack van Ostade a (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)


Height: 258.000 mm
Width: 381.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1847-3-26-6



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