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Peasants Outside a Farmhouse Butchering Pork, 1641

Isack van Ostade

Dutch, 1621-1649
Oil on panel
19-1/8 x 25-1/2 in. (48.6 x 64.8 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
© The Norton Simon Foundation; Photography courtesy the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

On view

In 2013, Peasants Outside a Farmhouse Butchering Pork underwent conservation treatment at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Discolored varnish was removed to restore tonal balance in the sky, trees and foliage. Indiscreet retouching, meant to cover a horizontal crack in the panel was removed. In the course of this treatment it was discovered that the man at lower left was answering a call to nature. Considered indecorous at a later stage in the painting’s history, it was painted over and a stool placed under him. Following the careful conservation treatment, Ostade’s use of subtle cool blues and silvery greens are evident in the luminous, quasi monochrome palette.

Haarlem born Isack van Ostade painted large winter landscapes and smaller intimate genre scenes of which this work is a fine example. The artist often composed his vivid scenes, here a family of peasants at work, around a strong diagonal that separates the earth and sky and leads our eye from the foregroung to the background.

Illuminated by a glowing pool of light, the adults are busy with chores associated with the butchering of a pig. Children, whom Ostade fondly depicted in many paintings, play with the pig’s bladder or watch the goings-on. The quality of observation and anecdotal detail that Ostade included in his treatment of rustic subjects appealed to the increasingly urbanized population of Holland and made a distinctive contribution to Dutch art.

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