The Large Village Fair
Cornelis Dusart (Dutch, 1660–1704)
Hollstein 16 ii/III
Platemark: 27.1 x 34.8 cm (10 11/16 x 13 11/16 in.) Sheet: 28.7 x 36.1 cm (11 5/16 x 14 3/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Etching and engraving
Not On View
Born in Haarlem in 1660, Cornelis Dusart became the closest follower of Adriaen van Ostade, the leading specialist in peasant scenes during the Golden Age of Dutch art. Indeed Dusart may have come into possession of the contents of Van Ostade’s studio upon the latter’s death in 1685. Dusart is thought to have finished both drawings and paintings left incomplete by his mentor and byAdriaen’s brother Isaak, who had died in 1649. Some of the drawings and paintings “completed” by Dusart may not have been considered unfinished by the Van Ostades. Fashions were changing, and by the late 17th Century many collectors desired more elaborate images.
As a printmaker, Dusart appears to have catered to changing tastes as well. Most of etchings, including “The Village Fair,” are dated 1685, the year of Van Ostade’s death. While treating very similar subjects, they have a much finer, tighter, more precise line than Van Ostade’s prints. They are also more concerned with anecdotal detail and less with texture. In “The Village Fair,” these tendencies are reflected in the innumerable bit players who populate the image. The moodiness of Van Ostade’s work gives way to a chorus singing brightly on a grand operatic stage. Dozens of vignette incidents seek our attention as our eyes roam the page. The pictorial organization is, however, that of a classicizing history painting.
“The Village Fair” stands in a long pictorial tradition. In the 15th Century, dancing nymphs and putti were the province of Italian Renaissance artists, while northern artists depicted the wild revelry of Moorish or Morris dancers. 16th-century northern artists brought the genre down to earth in the by transforming the celebrants into peasants at play. Though Peter Bruegel, the Elder, is most closely associated with the subject, Albrecht Dürer and Hans Sebald Beham preceded him. Van Ostade’s largest etching shows peasants dancing in a tavern. Perhaps Dusart measured himself against these greats by choosing a peasant dance for his largest plate as well.
Signed and dated in plate lower left: Corn. Dusart fe / 1685.
Hill-Stone (New York); from whom purchased, 20 September 2006.
Katherine E. Bullard Fund in memory of Francis Bullard