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David Teniers the Younger (Antwerp 1610-Brussels 1690)

Interior of a Famhouse with Figures ('The Stolen Kiss') c.1660

Oil on canvas | 71.6 x 87.4 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 405342

Picture Gallery, Buckingham Palace

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  • The Stolen Kiss seems to take place in the outbuildings of a farmhouse, with a bread oven and a lavish supply of humble fare. As often in low-life genre painting of the period, the servants are misbehaving - in this case flirting with the farmer’s daughter (assuming the old woman in the background to be his wife). This painting belongs to a distinctive tradition, one of the most enduring within Dutch and Flemish (and even British) painting - that of the Bruegel family. The comic peasant interior goes back ultimately to Pieter Bruegel the Elder, but his ideas were taken up again in the 1620s by a Flemish artist, Adriaen Brouwer (1605-38), who in a brief career worked in Haarlem in the northern Netherlands, as well as in Antwerp in the south, and whose works appealed alike to Rubens and Rembrandt. Brouwer invented the type of interior we encounter here: a barn-like hovel with dirt floor and wooden beamed ceiling, poorly lit by a single, small shuttered window. The smoky drabness of these spaces can be appreciated by contrast with the high glass windows, stone floors and brightly decorated walls of a merchant’s house as seen in Jacob de Formentrou’s 'Cabinet of Pictures'. Brouwer depicted his interiors frontally (like a stage set) and peopled them with carousing and brawling boors. He suggested the uncertainty of peering into a drab and smoke-filled room by leaving visible the scrubbed pattern of the brown underpaint layer. Against this a single light source (usually to the left) picks out a haphazard assortment of objects across the foreground, realised in thicker and brighter (though still sketchily applied) paint. By the time of his death in 1638, Brouwer’s theme was material for a range of variations, in Holland by Adriaen van Ostade, Gerrit Dou (1613-75) and Rembrandt, and in Flanders by David Teniers the Younger. Here Teniers follows the formula precisely, making much of the picturesque textures of wood grain and daubed walls, while at the same time turning the foreground into an opportunity for a full still life. Teniers seems to give each foreground object a droplet of highlight from the window. This quality of light and technique creates a kind of interior aerial perspective. At the extreme front verge of the painting objects are light, brightly coloured, tactile, fully modelled and in every way illusionistically realised. As you move back in space objects become darker, drabber, flatter and more elusive, as if enveloped in dusk and smoke. The contrast in techniques required to achieve this effect was especially admired by Reynolds, who wrote in his 'Journey to Flanders and Holland' in 1771 that Teniers’s handling ‘has perhaps never been equalled; there is in his pictures that exact mixture of softness and sharpness, which is difficult to execute’. Signed beneath the pot, lower right D. TENIERS. FEC Text adapted from Bruegel to Rubens, Masters of Flemish Painting, London 2007
    Provenance

    Acquired by Frederick Prince of Wales from George Bagnall c. 1740; the frame was repaired by Paul Petit in 1749

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas

    Measurements

    71.6 x 87.4 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    102.4 x 122.5 x 11.1 cm (frame, external)

  • Alternative title(s)

    The Stolen Kiss