Mathijs van Hellemont - inv. 1050

Mathijs van Hellemont (1623-post 1674)

Four Peasants in front of the Hearth
17th century, second half
22 x 17 cm
"M.V./ Hellemont f."
1879 bequest Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli
Inv. 1050

Foreign Artist Room
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Four people have been portrayed in front of a hearth in a rustic interior: a man and a woman are sitting on a bench with their backs to the viewer and talking to two standing men. The fire in the hearth in the background illuminates the scene.

This type of scene falls into traditional Flemish genre painting, where interiors of taverns with people often drinking and smoking are a favourite subject. Adriaen Brouwer (Oudenaerde, 1605/06 – Antwerp, 1638) and David Teniers (Antwerp, 1610 – Brussels, 1690) were the leaders of this school and their works greatly influenced artists from the next generations, among which we find Van Hellemont, who worked as a painter between 1638 and 1670.

This artist’s large production is distinguished for the variety of its subject matter: rural interiors, scenes with alchemists in their laboratories or village celebrations. Compared to earlier models, especially those of Brouwer, Hellemont generally shows a more relaxed image of rural life, proving the trend in Flemish genre painting during the seventeenth century to lessen the satirical-grotesque aspects pursued more ardently in Dutch Protestant circles.