top of page

Adriaen van Ostade (Haarlem 1610-1685)

The Organ-Grinder

etching, fragmentary watermark Phoenix in a Wreath (Godefroy 33)
11.1 x 9.5 cm (plate)
signed ‘Av. ostade/ 1647’ (in the plate)
Bartsch, Hollstein, Davidsohn and Godefoy 8[1], third state (of five), a very fine impression of the rare third state, a richly inked impression with plate tone, partly trimmed to the platemark, but otherwise with thread margins, an unobtrusive almost invisible diagonal crease in upper right half of the sheet, the sheet is in very good condition

Paul Davidsohn (1839-1924), Gdansk (L. 654);
C.G. Boerner, Leipzig, 22-26 November 1920, lot 1714 (‘Noch mit feiner EInfassung. Ausgezeichneter Abdruck, mit etwas Rand.’).

P. Davidsohn, 'Die Originalradieruingen von Adriaen van Ostade', Leipzig, 1922, p. 8.

Born in 1610 in Haarlem, Adriaen van Ostade grew up in the liberal city with its flourishing art scene. Van Ostade became a member of the Haarlem Sint Lukasgilde in 1634 and, according to Arnold Houbraken, was trained by the celebrated Haarlem high society painter Frans Hals.[2] Unlike Hals, Ostade sought his subjects in his neighbours and peasants from Haarlem’s surrounding countryside rather than its more well-to-do citizens. Van Ostade captured the joys and sorrows of the everyday life with intricate detail in his large number of paintings and drawings. Besides these, the artist led a large and varied 'œuvre' of 50 etchings, which, like his paintings and drawings, depict scenes from everyday life such as farmers feasting, peasant families occupied in their daily pursuits and musicians, giving a fascinating insight in daily life in the 17th century.[3]

In the present etching, Van Ostade depicts a man with his head slightly tilted forward, and a small grin is detected on his face, while playing a hurdy-gurdy (a hand-crank- turned string instrument). Hurdy-gurdy players were a popular subject in Dutch art and gained particular popularity in the 17th century, frequently appearing in etchings by artists such as Rembrandt and Jan Joris van Vliet. In these etchings, the hurdy-gurdy players were usually blind, but whether this is also the case for the man in the present etching is unclear due to the shadow cast over his eyes. Van Ostade subtly plays with the small distinction between a beggar and a musician through the costume the figure is wearing. The attire is more commonly associated with a 17th-century musician than a beggar, though the difference between the two was rather small.[4] As observed by Tom Rassieur, the model in the present etching is probably the same as that is in three drawings by Ostade, of which one served for an etching.[5]

This particularly strong and fresh impression comes from the celebrated collection of Paul Davidsohn, one of the most esteemed prints and drawings collectors of his time. In his seminal Les Marques de Collections de Dessins & d’Estampes, Frits Lugt described the collector as follows:

‘’Son activité de collectionneur fut énorme, il assista à presque toutes les grandes ventes de ces 40 dernières années. Avec persistance, il s'efforça de réunir des œuvres aussi complets, des séries aussi représentatives que possible. C'est pour Dürer, Ostade et Rembrandt qu'il fit les plus grands sacrifices.’’ [6]

Indeed, during these 4 decades of intense collecting, Davidsohn brought together an exceptional collection of Van Ostade etchings, both in terms of quality and completeness. Davidsohn’s scholarly approach to collecting is furthermore attested by the œuvre catalogue of Van Ostade’s etchings that he published towards the end of his life, in 1922 (see literature).

[1] L. Godegroy, 'The Complete Etchings of Adriaen van Ostade', Amsterdam, 1995, pp. 56-58
[2] A. Houbraken, De groote Schouburgh der Nederlantsche Konstschilders en Schilderessen, Amsterdam, 1718, vol. I, p. 347.
[3] See S.W. PelleFer, ‘Adriaen van Ostade’s Etchings: An IntroducFon’, in Everyday Life in Holland’s Golden Age: The Complete Etchings of Adriaen van Ostade. Studies of Dutch Graphic Art, Volume III, exhib. cat., Amsterdam, Museum het Rembrandthuis, 1998, pp. 7-14 and Godefroy, op. cit., nos 1-50.
[4] S.W. PelleFer and L. J. Slatkes, ‘Catalogue of the ExhibiFon’, in op. cit., pp. 99-100.
[5] T. Rassieur, ‘Adriaen van Ostade, the Methodical ArFst: Preparatory Drawings, a Chronology and Rembrandt’, in op. cit., p. 31-32, figs. 1-4.
[6] F. Lugt, Les Marques de CollecJons de Dessins & d’Estampes, The Hague, 1921, p. 115.

bottom of page