VAN HERP, After Willem (1614-1677)
A Flemish Collation. From the Original Picture, Painted by Van Harp, In the Collection of the Right Honourable the Earl of Bute
London: John Boydell, 2 November 1765. Copper engraving, coloured by hand, by Isaac Taylor, from Richard Earlom's design after van Herp. Sheet size: 19 3/8 x 25 1/4 inches.
A very fine genre picture, expertly interpreted by Earlom and Walker. The artist of the original work is probably Willem van Herp (not Harp as in the title): the most likely candidate from amongst a prolific family of 17th-century Flemish painters.
This good-humored scene shows the interior of a Flemish tavern. A number of guests sit around a table spread with a ham and bread. Hot soup is also available which a matron tries to feed to her child, her husband sits next to her with the bowl balanced precariously on his knee. The inn-keeper hands round glasses of wine that he pours from a flagon. At the staircase entrance to the room a women stands with apples held up in her apron whilst the man next to her calls out, reaches in to the apron and throws fruit to anyone who answers him: two young men hold out their hats to catch the fruit in the room below.
Scenes such as these derive from Pieter Brueghel's chaotic scenes of Flemish village life, which in turn derived from moralistic paintings of early Renaissance Netherlandish art. The moralistic edge gradually became blunted as the artists and their patrons grew ambivalent about these scenes of noisy distraction. In any event, the effect was to make one smile rather than recoil and turn away. And eventually, as here, genre scenes like these became nostalgic evocations of the happy chaos of big family life.