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David Teniers the Younger, Peasants at Archery

Key facts
Full title Peasants at Archery
Artist David Teniers the Younger
Artist dates 1610 - 1690
Date made about 1645
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 119.4 × 289.6 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Mrs Mary Venetia James from the Arthur James collection, 1948
Inventory number NG5851
Location Room 20
Collection Main Collection
Peasants at Archery
David Teniers the Younger

A towering rain cloud seems to threaten an early close to this game of archery. Perhaps the storm will come as a relief – although the archer takes aim with an eager eye, only one of the three arrows already shot has hit the target. The game seems almost incidental, however: Teniers is here telling a secondary tale that, on careful viewing, takes the more important role in the picture. Only the two players, the seated man and the umpire seem interested in the archery. Most of the others appear to be up to mischief.

Teniers depicted peasants as caricatures repeated against unidentified, probably imaginary backgrounds. They are like the characters from the popular commedia dell’arte and often appear to be involved in a scam; here, the pompous man in the black hat seems ripe for exploitation, and a lively figure in a red hat runs between two groups of plotters. With pictures like these, a wealthy collector could enjoy the commedia dell’arte without stirring from his fireside.

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