Peasants drinking and smoking at a table in an Italianate courtyard

In this merry scene, two men and a woman sit at an outdoor table beside a house, drinking and smoking, while another man stands behind them. Their activities, combined with their giddy smiles and open-legged stances, suggest a rowdy group. This work adds to the small oeuvre of the little-known artist Johannes Natus. Active in Middelburg, a city with a rich artistic tradition, Natus joined the guild of artists in late 1661 or early 1662. The few works attributed to him date from 1658 to 1662 and chiefly consist of genre paintings. The present work can be linked to another now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (inv. SK-A-1705), signed and dated 1660, in which the same dog appears in reverse. A similar group of revelers seated at a table can also be found in a signed and dated painting of 1661 in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (inv. CAI.92).

Private collection, Geneva, 1941, as by Vermeer.

Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 16 December 1999, lot 34 (£78,500).

About Johannes Natus

Dutch, active 1658-1662, based in Middelburg, Netherlands