Jan Olis specialised in painting interior scenes: happy companies set in a private or public interior or quiet groups of officers set in guardrooms, such as our painting.
Guardroom scenes or ‘kortegaerden’ are a typical Dutch subject of the second quarter of the 17th century: several specialists would evoke the boredom and intricate psychological relationships between a few officers in a confined space. There was not much to do while one was waiting for a besieged town to surrender.
About Jan Olis
Gorinchem circa 1610 – 1676 Heusden
Painter of genre scenes: mainly merry companies and guardroom scenes (‘kortegaerdjes’).
He occasionally painted flower still lifes, kitchen genre scenes, portraits and historical subjects.
It is not known who was Olis’s teacher.
It might be one of the following three better known painters who lived in the fairly small town of Gorinchem (pronounced ‘Gorcum’):
- Gerard van Kuijll (1604-1673)
- Jacob van der Ulft (1622-1689)
- Hendrik Verschuring (1627-1690).
His earliest dated work is from 1629.
Olis was in Rome in 1631. A painting representing Diana and Actaeon (formerly in the Lüdinghausen-Wolff Collection, Mitau/Jelgava, Latvia) is reportedly signed ‘Jan Olis Roma pinsit A° 1631’.
In 1632 he was already back in Holland. He settled in Dordrecht, which was a larger town than Gorinchem, offering more possibilities.
In 1637 he married the widow of a wine merchant. She continued her late husband’s business, which was officially registered under Jan’s name. The last mention of Olis in Dordrecht dates from 1643.
That same year he is also mentioned in Rotterdam and in The Hague. He must have stayed for some time in The Hague: in a sale organized by the Painter’s Guild of The Hague in 1647, featuring almost exclusively local painters, some of his paintings and copies made after his works were included.
In 1651 Olis moved to the small town of Heusden (then in the province of Holland, now in North-Brabant) where he held various local government posts: he was several times alderman in the city council; in 1657 he became burgomaster and in 1670 Olis is referred to as tax collector.
Dated works confirm he was still painting after moving to Heusden. He may have given up painting in his later years. Olis died in Heusden in 1676.
About guardroom scenes
Our painting represents the interior of a guardroom.
Until 1648 the Eighty Years’ War was fought, which one may call the Dutch war of independence from Spain.
It ended with the final recognition, by Catholic Spain, of the independent, largely Protestant Republic of the Seven United Provinces. Flanders remained Spanish and Catholic.
The War can be divided into four phases:
- 1568 until circa 1600 : this period ends with Prince Maurice taking a lot of towns from the Spaniards.
- 1609 – 1621: the Twelve Years’ Truce.
- 1621 – 1625 : important Spanish successes, for example the fall of Breda in 1625.
- 1625 – 1648 : the new stadtholder Frederick Henry takes town after town.
After the Twelve Years’ Truce (1609 – 1621) and the few years of Spanish success (1621 – 1625) the Eighty Years’ War had evolved towards a slow war of sieges. In between and during these sieges there were long periods of inactivity, which the contemporary painters portrayed with a lot of sense for psychology. Once a town in Spanish hands was surrounded, the Dutch troops had to wait for its surrender.
In Dutch painting it really evolved to become a popular subject with several specialists active in this domain: Jacob Duck, Pieter Codde, Willem Duyster, Jan Olis, but above all Anthonie Palamedesz..
Most Dutch guardroom scenes show soldiers either killing time (playing cards or dice, or smoking a pipe, sleeping or drinking), flirting with prostitutes, inspecting their weapons or showing their booty to a superior.
In French a guardroom is called ‘un corps-de-garde’, which in Dutch evolved towards ‘een kortegaerden’.
About our painting
Typical of these ‘kortegaerden’ scenes are the elegant clothes of the portrayed officers and the undefined, sobre space in which they are set.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is a typical example of a ‘kortegaerden’ by one of its leading specialists.