In this tender little scene, Adriaen van Ostade shows an elderly peasant with his hand on that of a woman about his age. He leans towards her, his other hand holding a tall, full beer glass – perhaps denoting his desire for her. Her hand is on a long unbroken clay pipe – in Dutch art of the time this often symbolised virginity. She smiles a little, but has not yet raised her eyes to his, so we sense her shyness and uncertainty.
In the eighteenth century a print of the two elderly lovers was known as ‘Het schollenmannetje’, literally ‘the little plaice man’, referring to the fish on the table, perhaps brought as a gift to the man’s beloved.
Eight hundred of Adriaen van Ostade’s paintings are known, most of them small genre scenes. They show his skill in portraying human emotions with a keen eye for reality and, in this case, great sensitivity and empathy.
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