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Masters of the Everyday

A beautifully produced publication presenting a superb collection of Dutch genre painting from the Royal Collection.


A Village Fair, with a Church behind

Signed and dated 1643

Oil on panel | 61.0 x 79.4 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 407234

The Royal Collection has two exceedingly fine examples of Isack van Ostade’s art: A village fair - acquired by George IV in 1810 - and Travellers outside an inn of 1647, which was once in the distinguished collection formed in Amsterdam by Jan Gildemeester. Both paintings have elaborate, intricately woven compositions with numerous figures gathered around a group of buildings. For A village fair van Ostade creates a generous sense of space by setting the figures on a road which serves as a shallow diagonal, countered by another on which the village buildings are set. It is known that Isack van Ostade made drawings of the villages around Haarlem, but his paintings, unlike Jacob van Ruisdael’s, for instance, are based on his own imagination. That, in part, would account for the large proportions of the village church that dominates the right half of A village fair.

Isaac van Ostade’s way of painting rural scenes was a distinctive contribution to the development of Dutch art, but he was not alone in choosing to depict the countryside. Print makers such as Claes Jansz. Visscher, Willem Buytewech and Jan van de Velde II recorded the landscape and villages in the vicinity of Haarlem in a way that openly extolled the beauties of the countryside. Such images were of course intended to appeal to the increasingly urbanised population of Holland. An important aspect of Isack van Ostade’s A village fair, however, is not so much the subject as the atmosphere, created not only by the anecdotal interest of the numerous figures, but also by the dampness in the air and the stickiness of the mud underneath. At the beginning of the next century it was Jean-Antoine Watteau who lifted van Ostade’s compositions on to a poetic level.

Signed and dated lower left: 'Isack van Ostade/1643'

Catalogue entry adapted from Enchanting the Eye: Dutch paintings of the Golden Age, London, 2004

    The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.