A genre piece of a village school with a lively representation of a teacher and his pupils. The atmosphere in the class room is in line with other interior pieces by van Ostade. The appearance is that of jocular simplicity and carelessness. The light coming in from the left draws the attention to a group of pupils in the center. The atmosphere of concentrated activity is continued in the image of the group of pupils in the background. The perched owl next to the teacher can in this context be seen as a reference to wisdom.
The entire representation with its village school theme, and its emphasis on diligence, fits very well in the development that both Isack and Adriaen van Ostade go through in their genre paintings in the forties of the seventeenth century. Like their representations of rural life, this village school has a comical aspect with its chaotic bustle that recalls Pieter Breughel’s “Ass in the School” (1556).
Isack van Ostade (1621-1649)
Isack Jansz. van Ostade was a Dutch painter and draughtsman that belonged to the Dutch School and was a younger brother and pupil of Adriaen van Ostade (1610-1685). Van Ostade worked in and around Haarlem as of 1629. He was admitted to the guild of Saint Luke in Haarlem in 1643. There are around a hundred paintings known of the hand of van Ostade, mainly portraits, landscapes, and genre pieces.
Initially, van Ostade was schooled by his brother Adriaen. In 1641, however, Isack started working for himself. In his earlier period, he was strongly influenced by the work of Rembrandt, but soon developed his own style. Some believe to see the influence of Salomon van Ruysdael in his early landscapes. This belief is supported by the fact that van Ruysdael filed a lawsuit against van Ostade for an unpaid debt for board, lodging and tuition in 1640.
Next to oil paintings van Ostade made a good number of drawings. The fact that most of these drawings cannot be linked to any of his paintings, raises the suspicion that he designed these merely for his personal pleasure.
Ecole flamande et hollandaise, Catalogue sommaire illustré des peintures de Musée de Louvre, Paris 1979, Nr. M.I. 948.
Sir Francis Cook, 1st Baronet, Doughty House, Richmond Surry;
By inheritance: Sir Francis Cook, 4th Baronet;
M.H. Drey, London
Sotheby’s New York, 1 june 1990, Lot 36, [$ 60.500 hammer
private collection, the Netherlands