Jan Jansz. Buesem was a highly original Dutch painter who was active in Amsterdam, where he must have been a pupil of Pieter Quast.
The old woman in the background uses eyeglasses. These early spectacles did not have sides yet; they were used as a pince-nez.
About Jan Jansz. Buesem
Amsterdam (?) 1599/1600 – in or after 1649 Amsterdam (?)
Painter of peasant genre scenes. He also painted a few still lifes and a few church interior scenes.
In old inventories Buesem is also called "Besem" (a "broom") or "Besemer".
He was probably born in Amsterdam, where he was recorded between 1637 and 1649.
Buesem claimed he had been a pupil of Pieter Jansz. Quast (Amsterdam circa 1605/06 – 1647 Amsterdam) in Amsterdam around 1630. Seeing the similarities between both painters this is indeed very probable. Quast lived in Amsterdam, except for the period between 1634 and 1641 when he lived in The Hague. Buesem might therefore indeed have studied under Quast in Amsterdam around 1630.
Quast and Buesem shared senses of space and rhythm, and of narrative clarity in their compositions. Both artists painted barn and tavern interior scenes, often with a satirical or ironical sense.
Buesem also painted rather rare subjects of witchcraft and Vanitas.
About eye glasses
The old woman in our painting wears eyeglasses.
Eyeglasses (“discs for the eyes”) seem to have been invented in Italy, probably in Pisa, during the late 13th century. Florence, which already had a large glass industry, became an important production centre. Following the invention by Guttenberg of the printing press during the middle 15th century and the availability of books, newspapers and engravings to the ‘common’ man, its use became widespread. These early spectacles did not have sides yet; they were used as a pince-nez. Therefore they were not easy to keep in place. While reading one had to hold his head back or simply hold them in place with one hand. The best lenses were produced in Italy (Florence), the best frames in Germany (Nuremberg en Regensburg).
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it testifies of Buesem’s mild sense of humour.
Because it is such an interesting composition: the figures are put together at right, while the left side is almost empty: a few objects, a niche with a jug.