Choose a background colour

Andries Both, Dutch, 1611/1612-1641: Crowd Outside an Inn with an Art-Seller, c. 1630-40 

Although his life was cut short by his trag­ic drown­ing, Andries Both was known for his live­ly and humor­ous paint­ings of low-life genre scenes and street life. Here, a man raised above the crowd holds a rec­tan­gu­lar object, prob­a­bly a paint­ing, under the shade of a tav­ern’s canopy. The Dutch mar­ket for paint­ings flour­ished in the sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry and open-air lot­ter­ies and auc­tions became pop­u­lar, espe­cial­ly among buy­ers of lim­it­ed means. Despite their wide­spread occur­rence, such pub­lic sales were rarely depict­ed in the visu­al arts, mak­ing Both­’s sheet a note­wor­thy example.

Andries Both trained in the Utrecht work­shop of Abra­ham Bloe­maert in the late 1620s.1

Although he made a num­ber of notable land­scape draw­ings early in his career, Both is pri­mar­i­ly known for the works he pro­duced after he left the coun­try in the early 1630s. He trav­eled first through France and even­tu­al­ly set­tled in Rome around 1635, where he joined Pieter van Laer and his fol­low­ers (the Bam­boc­cianti) as a painter of low-life genre scenes and street life.2

His younger broth­er Jan Both (c. 1615/22 – 1652) later joined him in Rome and became a notable painter as well, spe­cial­iz­ing in Ital­ianate land­scapes. Andries trag­i­cal­ly met his demise in Venice in 1642 when he fell into a canal and drowned, cut­ting short the career of one of the most live­ly and humor­ous Dutch artists of his generation.

In his draw­ings, which deserve more study, Andries could be remark­ably var­ied in his han­dling, sub­ject mat­ter, and degree of fin­ish. When the Peck draw­ing first emerged in 1989, it bore an uncon­vinc­ing attri­bu­tion to Barend Graat (1628 – 1709). The removal of the old mount by the auc­tion house, how­ev­er, revealed an older and far more plau­si­ble attri­bu­tion to André Both” on the verso, prob­a­bly writ­ten by a French col­lec­tor or deal­er in the nine­teenth or early twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry.3

Both­’s con­fi­dent han­dling of the well-charged pen to gen­er­ate the forms of the fig­ures using short, swift strokes are com­pa­ra­ble to those found in his signed Vil­lage Smithy in Dres­den Fig. 14.1.

Andries Both, The Village Smithy
Fig. 14.1

Andries Both, The Vil­lage Smithy, c. 1630 – 35? Pen and brown ink and brown wash on paper, 201 × 305 mm. Dres­den, Kupfer­stich-Kabi­nett, inv. no. c 1244.

This is espe­cial­ly true for the fig­ures under the canopy on the left side of the Peck draw­ing. For those on the right, exposed to direct sun­light, he used longer, drier strokes and left a greater reserve of the paper to sug­gest stronger illu­mi­na­tion. At first glance, the gray wash­es appear to have been added later, but it is also pos­si­ble that Both applied these him­self, espe­cial­ly since they rein­force the build­ing of zones through light and shad­ow. The broad ener­getic strokes in brown wash in the back­ground bold­ly add a sense of dap­pled light to this out­door scene.

Although dat­ing Both­’s draw­ings can be dif­fi­cult, the Peck sheet is arguably one of his ear­li­er works. The slight­ly later draw­ings he made in Italy betray a more liq­uid han­dling of the pen. Fur­ther­more, both this sheet and the Vil­lage Smithy in Dres­den seem more like North­ern sub­jects, among those he per­haps made before he depart­ed the coun­try, or pro­duced dur­ing an early phase of his trav­els, which includ­ed a stopover in Rouen.4

The glass win­dows with point­ed-arch archi­tec­ture sug­gest a more North­ern set­ting for this work, as does the form of the house in the dis­tant back­ground to the right.

As for the sub­ject mat­ter, the raised fig­ure under the canopy appears to be hold­ing aloft a paint­ing. The details are dif­fi­cult to dis­cern, but it might depict a land­scape with a wind­mill. If this man is indeed show­ing the gath­ered crowd a paint­ing, then this would be an espe­cial­ly rare image of an open-air art sale. Despite the famous­ly live­ly mar­ket for paint­ings the Dutch enjoyed at the time, their actu­al sale in pub­lic remains poor­ly rep­re­sent­ed in the iconog­ra­phy of the era, though there are occa­sion­al rep­re­sen­ta­tions of artists being vis­it­ed by col­lec­tors and con­nois­seurs in their studios.

Open-air lot­ter­ies and auc­tions were espe­cial­ly pop­u­lar in the Low Coun­tries at the time. 5

Such sales could put art­works with­in reach of those who could not oth­er­wise afford them, an aspect which may play a role in the humor osten­si­bly at play here. The draw­ing like­ly rep­re­sents an auc­tion rather than a lot­tery, the lat­ter tend­ing to be elab­o­rate affairs with many types of objects that last­ed many days.6

Auc­tions of paint­ings, on the other hand, could also take place in tav­erns like this. We have direct knowl­edge of one such auc­tion held in 1631 at the Con­inck van Vranck­ryck (King of France) in Haar­lem, a tav­ern fre­quent­ed by Frans Hals and his con­tem­po­raries, because the pro­pri­etor had to sub­mit a list of art­works to the city author­i­ties for approval before hold­ing the sale.7

Andries Both made other images of street ven­dors, but they tend to be more char­la­tan-like in char­ac­ter, and part of the humor in those works is decid­ed­ly found in show­ing just how eas­i­ly peo­ple can be duped. While this image seems innocu­ous at first glance, one nev­er­the­less won­ders if the artist was also tak­ing a jab at the prospec­tive buy­ers here. If so, he cre­at­ed a self-dep­re­cat­ing and per­haps iron­ic com­ment on the even­tu­al treat­ment and fate of prod­ucts com­ing from his own pro­fes­sion, for this is not your usual crowd of art lovers. Or is it? 

End Notes

  1. For overviews of Both­’s life and works, see Wadding­ham 1964; L. Trez­zani in Brig­an­ti et al. 1983, 195 – 202; and for the draw­ings espe­cial­ly, P. Schat­born in Ams­ter­dam 2001, 88 – 93.

  2. For these early land­scape draw­ings, see Haverkamp-Bege­mann 1976.

  3. Sale cat­a­logue, Sothe­by’s, Ams­ter­dam, 21 Novem­ber 1989, lot 37. The attri­bu­tion to Graat was like­ly made on the basis of com­par­i­son with a barn stall inte­ri­or draw­ing in the British Muse­um (inv. no. 1857,0110.2; and Hind 1915 – 31, vol. 3, 105, no. 1), for which the attri­bu­tion to Graat is ques­tion­able, as is the com­par­i­son to the present work.

  4. Both­’s stopover in Rouen is known from the draw­ing Drink­ing Peas­ants, signed and dated ABoth / Rouen 1633 (Weimar, Schloß­mu­se­um, inv. no. kk 4803); see C. Dumas in Ams­ter­dam 1999, 48 – 49.

  5. De Marchi 1995; and Raux 2018.

  6. For the spec­ta­cle of lot­ter­ies in the Low Coun­tries, and relat­ed imagery, see Raux 2018, 63 – 72, 284 – 87.

  7. See Miede­ma 1980, vol. 1, 136 – 37, no. A45; and Fucci 2018a, 268 – 69, doc. 74.