Scenes of the everyday life of peasants and tradesmen were popular among art buyers in seventeenth-century Holland. Often they were humorous, perhaps even mocking, in tone. This tiny picture, little bigger than a piece of A5 paper, is more sentimental, emphasising the cobbler’s diligence. He repairs a shoe in the window of his workshop while his customer sits smoking on a stool outside.
All is neat and ordered: a broom stands ready to sweep up waste clippings and a small pot will take the ash from the pipe. There is a water pump on the right, but more significantly a vine – perhaps symbolic of virtue – flourishes on the wall next to it. Meanwhile the cobbler’s faithful dog sleeps peacefully on its red blanket.
This picture was once thought to be by Adriaen van Ostade, a prolific painter and etcher of peasant scenes. It is now considered to be a copy after an etching by him.
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