The Amsterdam-based Dutch painter Pieter Jansz. Quast often painted satirical scenes. Here he has a laugh at an officer, who is so full of himself. The horse carrying his wife seems to be laughing at the scene.
About Pieter Jansz. Quast
Amsterdam circa 1605/06 – 1647 Amsterdam
Genre scene painter, he also painted some landscapes, religious scenes and portraits.
It is not known whom he studied under.
He was the master of Jan Jansz. Buesem (1599/1600 – in or after 1649) around 1630 and of the little-known portrait painter Dirk Cornelisz. de Hooch (1613 – in or after 1651) in the period 1630/35.
His interior scenes were often satirical and caricatural. He painted merry groups of peasants, elegant companies and guardroom scenes. He also loved depicting quack doctors.
Quast was active in his birthplace Amsterdam, except for the period 1634 – 1641 when he worked in The Hague. In 1632 he had married a lady from The Hague.
His sense for witty subjects depicted with a narrative clarity reminds of Adriaen Pietersz. van de Venne (1589 – 1662) who lived from 1625 until his death in The Hague.
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.
After the Twelve Years’ Truce (1609 – 1621) 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.
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
At the centre of our guardroom scene stands a very proud man, a fashionable officer who seems very happy with himself. In a ray of light a woman, probably his wife, approaches him on horseback. In the right background two soldiers are resting.
The horse seems to be laughing at his master’s presumptuous attitude; this is typical of Quast’s tongue-in-cheek humour.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because Quast has divided the monochrome scene almost like a modern painter from the 20th century Interwar period: with a harsh ray of light, a vertical wooden column and part of a small roof. The setting is unreal and the lighting extremely harsh. This is a very atypical second quarter 17th century Dutch painting.