David Teniers seldom painted identifiable buildings, but in this case the large house partially hidden by trees has been identified as Het Sterckshof near Antwerp. It belonged to Jacob Edelheer, who was city secretary as well as a collector of artworks and scientific instruments.
The figures on the bank may be Jacob and his family. The old man next to them may live on Edelheer’s land, and the fish he holds out a due as part of this agreement. Such dues may have included offering part of a catch of fish or a harvest of wheat, or it might entail a few days' labour for the landowner.
Teniers has given the family an aristocratic if faintly comic air, but the fishermen have cartoon-like features, exaggerated and grotesque, in his usual style.
A group of aristocrats pause during their walk by a river. They are dressed in the height of fashion in brilliant colours, and one woman’s overskirt is pinned back behind her to keep it clean. Below them, knee deep in the water, a group of men haul on heavy fishing nets, their breeches rolled up to their thighs.
An old man has left the working men to offer a fish to the group on the bank. They look at each other inquiringly, as if deciding whether to accept it or not. Behind them, the young lad of the party – hat in hand and lace frills round his knees – holds a whippet on a silver chain. He looks out at us. The dog looks up at the fish with eager eyes, perhaps hoping that if it’s unwanted, it might come his way.
David Teniers seldom painted identifiable landscapes or buildings, but in this case the large house partially hidden by trees has been identified as Het Sterckshof in Deurne near Antwerp. On the left is the stepped gable of the main house. A tall, elegant tower with an onion dome stands next to it, pointing to the sky. On the right, a second tall building also has a tower but the decorative gable is turned away from us to reveal what appears to be a covered window. A man with a dog on a leash trudges up towards the door partly hidden in the bushes.
When the picture was painted, the house belonged to Jacob Edelheer who was the city secretary of Antwerp. He was an influential man, and he had a large library and two collections, one of scientific instruments and a second of rare Chinese objects. These would have been in the house and made it a centre for scientists and art collectors of both Flanders and Holland. It has been suggested that the figures on the bank are Jacob, his wife Isabelle ven Lemens and their family. The old man next to them may be living on Edelheer’s land, and the fish he holds out a due as part of this agreement. Such dues may have included offering part of a catch of fish or a harvest of wheat, or it might entail a few days' labour for the landowner.
Teniers has given the family an aristocratic if faintly comic air, but the fishermen have cartoon-like features, exaggerated and grotesque, in his usual style. These stem from the highly successful scenes of peasant low-life for which he was famous – although in this painting he shows them as hard at work rather than merrymaking at an inn or in a landscape.
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