DAVID TENIERS THE YOUNGER
Antwerp 1610 - 1690 Brussels
Peasants playing nine-pins outside an inn, the city of Antwerp in the distance
Signed lower left: D.TENIERS
Oil on panel: 18 ¾ x 23 ½ in / 47.7 x 59.9 cm
Frame size: 26 x 30 ½ in / 66 x 77.5 cm
Painted in the mid-1640s
Von Rechberg und Rothenlöwen family, Wurttemberg, Bavaria (their arms on the reverse) G Cornwall Legh, by 1857; by descent to Col. Henry Cornwall Legh, by 1882; Sir Joseph Robinson Bt. (1840–1929), purchased from the above in 1895 with other Dutch and Flemish works; his sale, Christie’s London, 6th July 1923, lot 92; bought back and by descent to his daughter Princess Ida Louise Labia; her sale, Sotheby’s London, 27th March 1963, lot 24; David Koetser, Zurich; from whom acquired in 1979 for 220,000 Swiss francs by a European private collector;
Manchester, Art Treasures, 1857, no.1018 London, British Institution, 1867, no.114 London, Royal Academy, 1882, no.59 London, Royal Academy, Paintings from the Collection of the late Sir JB Robinson, Bt., now in the Possession of the Princess Labia, 1958, no.57 Cape Town, National Gallery of South Africa, The Joseph Robinson Collection, 1959, no.28 Zurich, Kunsthaus, Sammlung Sir Joseph Robinson, 1840–1929: Werke europäischer Malerei vom 15. bis 19. Jahrhundert, 17th August-16th September 1962, no.19
H Cornwall Legh, Catalogue of the Collection of Paintings at High Legh Hall, the seat of Lieut.-Col. Henry Cornwall Legh, JP, DL for Cheshire, Birmingham 1890, pp.70-71, no.23, illus. A Graves, A Century of Loan Exhibitions, London 1914, vol. III, pp.1295, 1298 M Klinge, David Teniers the Younger, exhibition catalogue, Antwerp 1991, p.20-21, fig. 10 M Klinge, David Teniers der Jüngere 1610–1690, exhibition catalogue, Karlsruhe 2005, p.37, fig. 14
David Teniers the Younger belonged to the close-knit and sophisticated elite of Antwerp painters. In 1637 he married Anna Brueghel, daughter of the celebrated flower and landscape painter Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625), and granddaughter of the legendary Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c.1525-1569). Like his father-in-law, Teniers was an extraordinarily fluent and inventive artist, delighting in the textures of paint, which he could wield with miniaturist delicacy, or more broadly as occasion demanded. By 1645, around the time this painting was made, Teniers was Dean of the Antwerp Guild of St Luke. In 1651 he was summoned to Brussels as Court Painter to the Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, Governor of the Spanish Netherlands, a role he fulfilled with his characteristic energy and finesse.
Peasants playing nine-pins is an excellent example of Teniers's work in the mid-1640s, combining rustic genre with an airy, atmospheric landscape and a delicate evocation of the graceful towers and spires of the artist's home city. Teniers's palette is lighter and his depiction of the peasants more idealized than in his work of the 1630s, which was influenced by Adriaen Brouwer (c.1606-1638). The browns and ochres of the inn and its courtyard are softened by a patch of blue sky framed in a horseshoe of cloud. The peasants' neat costumes provide a patchwork of local colour that animates and leads the eye around the foreground: jaunty red caps, brilliant blue and pink coats. The mood is sober and intent, with none of the drunken brawling characteristic of Brouwer. Teniers shows off his skill as a still-life painter in the group of objects to the left, revelling in the textures of the shiny ceramic pot and the wooden tub.
As Margret Klinge comments, Teniers often places an emphasis on one or two figures in the foreground. In the present painting, the focus falls on the crisply-silhouetted, white-shirted peasant about to bowl at the nine wooden pins, and the man in a red cap who assesses his action. The stretch of beaten earth between the two men – daringly left empty by the artist – increases the tension and underlines the precision and skill of this rustic pastime. Teniers's view of peasant life is influenced by the Arcadian poetry of Horace and Virgil, in which countryfolk are seen as living a wholesome and carefree lifestyle. The presence of Antwerp on the horizon underlines the fact that this restful countryside was easily accessible to the metropolitan elite to which Teniers and his clients belonged.
This painting belonged to Sir Joseph Robinson (1840-1929), one of the chief architects of South Africa's gold and diamond mining industries. Between 1895 and 1900 Robinson amassed a superb collection of Old Masters, with the emphasis on Dutch, Flemish and British works, filling his picture gallery at Dudley House in Park Lane. This Teniers, part of a group of important Dutch and Flemish paintings bought from the Cornwall Legh Collection in 1895, was eventually inherited by Robinson's daughter Princess Ida Labia, who married a member of the famous Venetian family.
DAVID TENIERS THE YOUNGER
Antwerp 1610 - 1690 Brussels
David Teniers the Younger was one of the most important seventeenth century Flemish painters of genre and landscape. Born in Antwerp, he first studied with his father David Teniers the Elder, and became a member of the Guild of St Luke in 1633. He married Anna Brueghel, daughter of the celebrated flower and landscape painter Jan Brueghel the Elder, in 1637. Anna’s guardian Peter Paul Rubens was a signatory to their marriage contract.
Between 1645 and 1646, Teniers was Dean of the Antwerp Guild of St Luke. In 1651, while he was at the height of his powers, Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, governor of the Spanish Netherlands, brought Teniers to Brussels as Court Painter and Curator, giving Teniers an authoritative role in building up the royal collection. From 1656-59 he was Court Painter to the new Spanish governor, Don Juan of Austria, brother of Philip IV, and retained close ties with the court for the rest of his life. In 1663 Philip IV gave Teniers permission to found the highly influential Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. His last known dated work was painted in 1683; Teniers died in Brussels in 1690.
Teniers’s early works were influenced by Adriaen Brouwer (1605/6-1638), particularly his treatment of peasant, low-life subjects and interior scenes, although he also painted landscapes, genre, portraits, religious and allegorical subjects. Later, Teniers turned increasingly to landscapes with figures; unlike his predecessors, however, he sought to convey the serenity of rural life rather than the more basic aspects of rustic realism. The works of Teniers were extremely influential on Flemish painting during his lifetime and beyond, and his paintings were avidly collected by princely connoisseurs.
The work of David Teniers the Younger is represented in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Hermitage, St Petersburg; the Louvre, Paris; the Prado, Madrid; the National Gallery, London and the Wallace Collection, London.
 Klinge 1991, op. cit., p.20.