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Allaert van Everdin­gen, Dutch, 1621-1675

Villagers Playing Pulling-the-Goose, c. 1650 

In this fin­ished draw­ing, pro­lif­ic drafts­man Allart van Everdin­gen depicts pulling-the-goose, a game often played on fes­tive days in local com­mu­ni­ties. Gal­lop­ing rid­ers on horse­back attempt­ed to wring the neck of a live and some­times greased goose strung up across a road. Cruel for the ani­mal, but enter­tain­ing for sev­en­teenth-cen­tu­ry par­tic­i­pants, the pas­time exist­ed in a num­ber of vari­ants and is still per­formed today in part of the south­ern Nether­lands, although with an arti­fi­cial goose. 

Everdin­gen’s scene belongs to a set of four draw­ings that may rep­re­sent the sea­sons, aimed at the flour­ish­ing col­lec­tors’ mar­ket. But since pulling-the-goose is a rare sub­ject and not close­ly tied to a par­tic­u­lar sea­son, it is dif­fi­cult to deter­mine an exact time of year for this depiction.

Allaert van Everdin­gen was one of the fore­most land­scape artists in his day, whose trip to Nor­way and Swe­den early in his career stim­u­lat­ed his fore­most spe­cial­ty, Scan­di­navia-inspired scenery.1

His paint­ings, draw­ings, and etch­ings are replete with crag­gy moun­tains, water­falls, and rus­tic log dwellings. These Nordic land­scapes made him quick­ly pop­u­lar among Dutch col­lec­tors and proved to have a last­ing impact on, among oth­ers, Jacob van Ruis­dael (1628/29 – 1682). The present work, how­ev­er, demon­strates how he turned his eye toward the local Dutch scene. This is espe­cial­ly the case in his draw­ings, which also com­pose the most pro­lif­ic side of his out­put with over 650 sheets known today.2

Almost all of these are fin­ished works, signed with his mono­gram and intend­ed for the flour­ish­ing col­lec­tors’ mar­ket for works on paper at the time. The enthu­si­asm among col­lec­tors con­tin­ued into the eigh­teenth cen­tu­ry, when his draw­ings were eager­ly sought and reg­u­lar­ly achieved high prices at auc­tion.3

This draw­ing of a game of pulling-the-goose (ganstrekken) offers a unique exam­ple of this sub­ject in Van Everdin­gen’s oeu­vre. Though cruel for the ani­mal, this fes­tive (for its sev­en­teenth-cen­tu­ry par­tic­i­pants) pas­time involved string­ing up a live and some­times greased goose across a road, under which rid­ers gal­loped and attempt­ed to wring its neck. The game, which exist­ed in a num­ber of vari­ants, was espe­cial­ly pop­u­lar in the Low Coun­tries.4

Images of the sport have occa­sion­al­ly made their way into the visu­al arts, for exam­ple in an engrav­ing after the design of Jacob Sav­ery (1565/67 – 1603) show­ing an early ver­sion on water using boats, with the cap­tion Mer­ri­ment to be had from goose-pulling” Fig. 46.1.5

Andries Stock, after Jacob Savery, Goose-Pulling
Fig. 46.1

Andries Stock, after Jacob Sav­ery, Goose-Pulling, c. 1614 – 48. Engrav­ing, 180 × 228 mm. Ams­ter­dam, Rijksmu­se­um, inv. no. RP-P-2001-54.

In con­tem­po­rary Dutch lit­er­a­ture, it makes an appear­ance in one of the most pop­u­lar songs by Ger­brand Bredero (1585 – 1618), his 1622 Boerenge­selschap, in which a goose-pulling in the vil­lage of Vinkeveen ends in a dead­ly brawl, a reminder for the towns­peo­ple to stay away from such rural fes­tiv­i­ties.6

In the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry, the folk­lorist Jan ter Gouw (1814 – 1894) report­ed that an already-dead goose might be used in place of a live one in order to reduce the ele­ment of cru­el­ty, though a farmer once told him that he did not see the point in pulling a dead goose.7

The game still sur­vives today in parts of Lim­burg with an arti­fi­cial goose in place of a live or dead one.

One intrigu­ing and rarely observed aspect of the Peck draw­ing is the pres­ence of women rid­ing on horse­back with the par­tic­i­pants, with one behind each of the three male rid­ers who have lined up in the fore­ground to pre­pare their run. A rare paint­ing by an uniden­ti­fied sev­en­teenth-cen­tu­ry Dutch artist elu­ci­dates the wom­en’s role, reveal­ing that they are the main par­tic­i­pants in the goose-pulling com­pe­ti­tion Fig. 46.2.

Fig. 46.2

Pulling-the-Goose [detail], c. 1650 – 75. Oil on can­vas, 99 × 138.5 cm. Christie’s, Lon­don, 13 July 2001, lot 82.

In the paint­ing, each male rider keeps one hand on the reins and the other around his com­pan­ion’s waist to pro­vide addi­tion­al sup­port. For farm­ers and their wives, the wring­ing of poul­try necks was like­ly not a gen­dered activ­i­ty when it came to day-to-day tasks, but the rel­a­tive equal­i­ty afford­ed to women here as active par­tic­i­pants in such a sport cer­tain­ly seems ahead of its time.

In her cat­a­logue of Van Everdin­gen’s draw­ings, Alice Davies spec­u­lates that this work may have once been part of series of draw­ings of the Twelve Months, in which each draw­ing offers a rep­re­sen­ta­tive exam­ple of a labor or leisure activ­i­ty for each month of the year.8

The sup­po­si­tion is rea­son­able since Van Everdin­gen like­ly cre­at­ed more sets of the Twelve Months theme than any other artist of his era.9

He did so only in the medi­um of draw­ing, rather than design­ing series of prints (which had long been the norm), though ear­li­er print­ed series clear­ly served as inspi­ra­tion for much of his sub­ject mat­ter.10

Six com­plete sets with twelve draw­ings of the Twelve Months theme by Van Everdin­gen are known today.11

Davies iden­ti­fied at least six fur­ther incom­plete sets, with var­i­ous months miss­ing after sets were bro­ken up over the years.12

Draw­ings in the Fogg Muse­um, Spencer Muse­um of Art, and the Ham­burg­er Kun­sthalle have been men­tioned as pos­si­ble miss­ing mates” for the present sheet, but they are slight­ly too wide, and almost cer­tain­ly once belonged to one or more sep­a­rate series.13

Three other draw­ings, how­ev­er, more prop­er­ly match this one in size and style.14

For­mer­ly in pri­vate col­lec­tions, the loca­tions of all three are cur­rent­ly unknown, but they depict sub­jects that could eas­i­ly be fit­ted into a tra­di­tion­al months-themed for­mat: cat­tle dri­ving, plow­ing, and a may­pole cel­e­bra­tion Fig. 46.3.

Allaert van Everdingen, Dancing around a Maypole in a Village Square
Fig. 46.3

Allaert van Everdin­gen, Danc­ing around a May­pole in a Vil­lage Square, c. 1650 – 65. Pen in brown ink, brown wash, over traces of black chalk on paper, 103 × 92 mm. Pri­vate collection.

There remains the prob­lem of which month to assign the goose-pulling scene, since it had never been used before (by Van Everdin­gen or any other artist) for a series of Twelve Months, as far as is known.15

Although goose-pulling reg­u­lar­ly took place dur­ing ker­mis, an annu­al fes­ti­val or fair held local­ly through­out the coun­try, every vil­lage would hold theirs at a dif­fer­ent time through­out the year, mak­ing it impos­si­ble to pin­point a month for this sub­ject as a ker­mis fes­tiv­i­ty.16

Early sources also men­tion that goose-pulling was a pop­u­lar activ­i­ty on Kop­per­maandag, or Cop­per Mon­day,” a day of char­i­ty and fes­tiv­i­ties which took place on the first Mon­day after Twelfth Night, or Driekonin­ge­navond (Three Kings Eve) on Jan­u­ary 6, a time of year more in keep­ing with the bare trees evi­dent in this draw­ing.17

Rather than an incom­plete set of the Twelve Months, the time of year pre­sent­ed in the Peck draw­ing and the three relat­ed sheets sug­gest they belong instead to a com­plete set of Four Sea­sons, a theme that Van Everdin­gen also treat­ed on occa­sion.18

While the may­pole cel­e­bra­tion might seem to dupli­cate the spring­time con­stituent offered by the plow­ing image, may­pole dances were also car­ried out to cel­e­brate sum­mer, and in some places in the Low Coun­tries took place in the sum­mer months.19

Like the goose-pulling scene, a may­pole cel­e­bra­tion was atyp­i­cal (and per­haps even unprece­dent­ed) for a Twelve Months or Four Sea­sons series, yet these draw­ings appear to have func­tioned as a group rather than inde­pen­dent works, espe­cial­ly given their small scale and sim­i­lar­ly loose han­dling. Though this pro­pos­al is ten­ta­tive due to the rar­i­ty of the iconog­ra­phy for cycle-of-time-themed series, these draw­ings serve as some of the best exam­ples of Van Everdin­gen’s inno­v­a­tive capac­i­ty to cre­ate new vari­a­tions of his genre sub­jects for such series of drawings.

End Notes

  1. For an overview of Van Everdin­gen’s life and career, see Davies 1978, 28 – 60; and Davies 2001, 15 – 39.

  2. See Davies 2007 for a com­plete cat­a­logue of draw­ings. Despite the num­ber that sur­vive, only about two dozen draw­ings by Van Everdin­gen can cur­rent­ly be found in US pub­lic col­lec­tions aside from the four in the Ack­land Art Muse­um (all for­mer­ly in the Peck Col­lec­tion). The largest group is the set of Twelve Months in the Spencer Muse­um of Art, Uni­ver­si­ty of Kansas (see Davies 1972; and Davies 2007, nos. 555 – 66).

  3. Davies 2007, 19 – 30.

  4. Ter Gouw 1871, 354 – 56; and Van Nijen 1934.

  5. Holl­stein, vol.23, no. 6.

  6. Schenkeveld 1991, 80.

  7. Ter Gouw 1871, 355; and Van Nijen 1934, 42.

  8. Davies 2007, 108.

  9. For a dis­cus­sion of Van Everdin­gen’s Twelve Months series, see Davies 2007, 97 – 109. Davies does not explic­it­ly state that the artist was respon­si­ble for more Twelve Months series than any other artist of his era, but it seems a safe state­ment, at least when con­sid­er­ing sev­en­teenth-cen­tu­ry Dutch artists. For an overview of the Twelve Months theme in Dutch and Flem­ish art gen­er­al­ly, see s-Her­to­gen­bosch & Leu­ven 2002 – 03.

  10. Jan van de Velde II (1593 – 1641) was an impor­tant fore­run­ner in the pro­duc­tion of Twelve Months series and the devel­op­ment of a specif­i­cal­ly Dutch iconog­ra­phy. He made three print­ed series of the sub­ject early in his career, circa 1614 – 18; see Fucci 2018a, 161 – 98.

  11. Davies 2007, nos. 457 – 528. The com­plete sets can be found in: De Grez Col­lec­tion, Konin­klijke Musea voor Schone Kun­sten van Bel­gië, Brus­sels (see S. Haute­keete in Brus­sels, Ams­ter­dam & Aachen 2007 – 08, nos. 38 – 39); Kupfer­stichk­abi­nett, Berlin (Bock & Rosen­berg 1930, nos. 2325 – 36); Muse­um Boi­j­mans Van Beunin­gen, Rot­ter­dam; Pushkin Muse­um, Moscow (Sad­kov 2010, nos. 159 – 70); Fodor Col­lec­tion, Ams­ter­dam Muse­um, Ams­ter­dam (Broos & Schapel­houman 1993, no. 59); and Col­lec­tion Dutu­it, Petit Palais, Paris.

  12. Davies 2007, nos. 529 – 74. See fur­ther Davies 1972 for a study of the set in the Spencer Muse­um of Art, Uni­ver­si­ty of Kansas, which was once an incom­plete set that was filled out” by an eigh­teenth-cen­tu­ry col­lec­tor with other draw­ings by Van Everdingen.

  13. F. Robin­son in Chapel Hill, Itha­ca & Worces­ter 1999 – 2001, 48 (cit­ing a 1988 let­ter by Alice Davies, cura­to­r­i­al files, Ack­land Art Museum).

  14. Davies 2007, nos. 570, 571, 572A.

  15. See Davies 2007, 108, not­ing the prob­lem of assign­ing a month to the Peck drawing.

  16. For exam­ple, as shown in the engrav­ing by Willem van Swa­nen­burg, after David Vink­boons, from before 1612 show­ing goose-cut­ting” (a vari­a­tion of goose-pulling) in the back­ground of a ker­mis scene; for which see the entry by G. Lui­jten in Ams­ter­dam 1997, 104 – 07, no. 15; and Holl­stein, vol. 37, no. 28.

  17. Van Nijen 1934, 46. Anal­o­gous­ly, in Catholic Flan­ders, goose-pulling would take place dur­ing car­ni­val: see idem, 55, for the Ganzen­ri­jder­slied (Goose-Rid­ers Song): Wij rij­den de Gans eens per jaar / En dat is juist met Car­naval” (We go goose-pulling once a year / And that is right dur­ing carnival).

  18. See Davies 2007, 89 – 96, nos. 446 – 56.

  19. Ter Gouw 1871Ter Gouw 1871, 132 – 46.