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Adriaen Huybrechts

(1545–1614, Antwerp)

Tavern Scene. Engraving. 22 x 29.5 cm. Watermark: Hand.

Guileless country folk who travel to market and succumb to the dubious temptations of town life were a popular genre subject in 16th century Flemish art. Here two peasants are living it up and dallying with whores at a table in a tavern. As they do so, an accomplice of the ladies of pleasure secretly empties the purse of the one man while another steals the goods they have brought to market. The tavern is thus less respectable than might appear at first sight and the humorous scene portrays the naive, inexperienced peasants as the victims of crafty prostitutes. A jester ridicules them for their ignorance.

This very rare, anonymous engraving was issued by the Antwerp publishing house of the engraver and publisher, Adriaen Huybrechts. The prototype on which it is based is an engraving by Cornelis Matsys in reverse and smaller in size, dating to around 1540 (Hollstein 130, see exhibition catalogue Spiegel van Alledag. Nederlandse genreprenten 1550–1700. Edited by E. de Jongh, G. Luijten. Amsterdam 1997, pp. 172–173). The author of the present work has slightly adapted a few details, such as the engraving on the rear wall of the tavern, although he has generally remained faithful to Matsys’ original. The vigorous and seemingly unpolished engraving technique brings to mind the style of the Antwerp reproductive engraver, Frans Huys (1522–1562).

A superb, contrasting, tonal impression with margins. Slight surface soiling, the top right-hand corner tapered, minor ageing, otherwise in excellent condition. From the collection of Gaston de Ramaix (Lugt 4099).

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