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Adriaen Brouwer, Tavern Scene

Key facts
Full title Tavern Scene
Artist Adriaen Brouwer
Artist dates 1606? - 1638
Date made about 1635
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 48 × 67 cm
Acquisition credit Bought with the support of a number of gifts in wills, 2002
Inventory number NG6591
Location Room 23
Collection Main Collection
Tavern Scene
Adriaen Brouwer

We are in a dingy tavern with a small gathering of drinkers and smokers squatting on low wooden stools and chairs. The focus of their attention – and ours – is the tussle going on between a man and a young woman on the left-hand side of the painting.

The depiction is unusually lewd. The man, his trousers open at the front, is wedging the woman’s legs apart with his knee and forcing his hand up her skirts. She fights back, trying to push his hand away and pulling at his hair with a determined grip. The sharp cry of pain which distorts his face has attracted the attention of his fellow drinkers. Whether we are witnessing a prostitute fighting off a drunken client, a sexual assault on a barmaid or simply watching a lovers’ tiff isn’t made explicit.

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