In the 18th century, this painting was attributed to Ludolf de Jongh, but in following years it has occasionally been given to other artists, including Pieter de Hooch. This confusion occurred in part because the painting bore a false signature of 'P d. hooch' on the overturned stool in the foreground until a recent cleaning revealed the original signature, 'L.D. Jongh'. Paintings by De Jongh have been common targets for such subterfuge in part because of the artist's own chameleon-like ability to create works in a variety of styles and subjects. De Jongh's facility at producing a range of hunting and riding scenes, portraits, courtyard views, as well as cityscapes and landscapes, likely stemmed from his diverse training. According to biographer Arnold Houbraken, De Jongh studied in Rotterdam with Cornelis Saftleven, who specialized in peasant scenes and landscapes, in Delft with Anthonie Palamedesz, who was primarily a specialist in guardroom paintings, and in Utrecht with Jan van Bijlert who produced life-size history paintings and genre scenes as well as cabinet pictures, often in a Caravaggesque idiom. In addition, De Jongh spent seven years in France before returning in 1642 to Rotterdam, where over time he became one of the city's most successful painters.
The present work was most likely executed in the first half of the 1650s, when De Jongh was at his most productive. The scene depicts a stable or barn with an officer and serving woman standing together in conversation; their hunched bodies suggest they are involved in a dispute. Presumably they are arguing over the cost of his stay and quartering of his horse, as such temporary accommodations were common during the war for independence in the United Provinces. The officer, wearing an armored chest plate and buff jerkin, has one hand in his pocket, the other resting on the wrist of the tavern hostess, who stands waiting with open palms.
A figure sits before the quarreling couple, wearing a floppy red beret, red shirt, sash and coat. He holds a small liquor bottle in one hand and a clay pipe in the other, smiling over his shoulder at the viewer. Common in Dutch genre paintings by Jacob Duck and Nicolaes Maes, this figure may have its origins in theater, acting as an intermediary between the audience and the stage. In the present work, this mischievous character puts his finger to the side of his nose, pulling down the lower lid of his right eye--a humorous gesture visible in the satirical works of Jan Steen as well as in Karel Dujardin's Morra Players in the Louvre (inv. R.F. 2002-1, see Tokyo, op. cit., p.161).
An addition of approximately fifteen centimeters on the top converted the panel from a horizontal stable scene to the upright format that came into fashion in the early to mid-1650s (Tokyo, loc. cit.); De Jongh likely changed the format of the panel himself in order to create a more dramatic perspective.
Signature: Signed indistinctly 'L D Jongh' (on the seat of the overturned stool, lower center).
Waltham, Massachusetts, Rose Art Museum, 17th Century Paintings from the Low Countries, 27 February-27 March 1966, no. 19, as 'Pieter de Hooch'.
Norfolk, Virginia, The Chrysler Museum; Providence, Rhode Island, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design; Tampa, Florida, The Tampa Museum, The Discovery of the Everyday: Seventeenth Century Dutch paintings from the Wolf Collection, 1982-1983, no. 21, as 'Pieter de Hooch'.
Tokyo, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vermeer and the Delft Style, 2 August-14 December 2008, no. 24.
R.E. Fleischer, 'Ludolf de Jongh and the Early Works of Pieter de Hooch', Oud Holland, XCII, 1978, pp. 60-61, 63, 65, fig. 20.
P.C. Sutton, Pieter de Hooch, Oxford, 1980, p. 141, no. D20, pl. 182.
P.C. Sutton, in Masters of Seventeenth Century Dutch Genre Painting, exhibition catalogue, Philadelphia/Berlin/London, 1984, p. LI, fig. 88.
R.E. Fleischer, Ludolf de Jongh, Doornspijk, 1989, p. 69, pl. 80.
R.E. Fleischer and S. Reiss, 'Attributions to Ludolf de Jongh, some old, some new', The Burlington Magazine, CXXXV, no. 1087, October 1993, p. 668, fig. 1.
W. Franits, Dutch Seventeenth-Century Genre Painting, New Haven, 2004, pp. 193, fig. 178.
Dr. Bragge, London; sale, John Prestage, London, 19-21 March 1751, lot 41, as 'De Jonge, An officer paying his Landlady', where purchased by
Sir William Beauchamp, and by descent to Jocelyn Beauchamp, Langley Park, Norwich; Sotheby's, London, 11 July 1956, lot 117, as 'Gillis van Tilburg' (£170 to Sabin).
Emile Wolf, New York; Sotheby's, New York, 28 January 2000, lot 28 ($156,500).
About Ludolf de Jongh
Dutch, 1616-1679, Overschie, Netherlands, based in Hillegersberg, Netherlands