Oil on panel, 33x38.1cm
Abraham Diepraem was a Dutch painter and draughtsman who specialized in genre scenes from the life of peasants and urban lower classes. A typical representative of the Rotterdam household genre of the second third of the 17th century. Currently, the artist’s works are presented in museums in Amsterdam, Berlin, Darmstadt, The Hague, Douai, Groningen, Karlruhe, Lille, London, Mainz, Philadelphia, Vienna and St. Petersburg.
According to the testimony of the biographer of Dutch painters Arnold Haubraken, he received his professional art education in the workshop of the Utrech glass painter Willem Stop; continued his studies with Hendrik Martens Sorg in Rotterdam. Also, after visiting France, he may have been to Antwerp, where he was influenced by the famous Flemish genre painter Adrian Brouwer. Since 1648 he was a master of the Guild of St. Luke in Dordrecht. In subsequent years, he worked mainly in Rotterdam. The surviving works are dated between 1648 and 1677. He died in a charity home for the poor.
The picture was created during the mature period of Abraham Diepraem’s work. In close proximity to it are the signature works of this master “Fight of peasants in a tavern” (wood, oil, 68.5 x 88.7 cm, private collection), “Feasting peasants” (wood, oil, 28 x 24 cm, private collection) and “Peasants in a tavern” (wood, oil, 35 x 52.4 cm. Karlruhe, State Kunsthalle, in in. No. 1802).
The theme of the picture is closely related to the fashion for smoking tobacco, which has become widespread in the Northern and Southern Netherlands since the 17th century. Often, in the paintings depicting smokers, the artists put a hidden moral connotation, thereby hinting at the deplorable consequences of smoking tobacco, which was then customary to mix with hemp, which is why it began to play the role of a light drug, close to belladonna (such a potion was placed in clay pipes, which were not so much smoked in the modern sense of the word as sucked, which had a serious effect on health.
Also, images of smokers were often included in the Five Senses emblematic cycles, where they personified the Smell. In the 18th century, Dutch merchants made tobacco a profitable export trade, and tobacco smoking became a mass phenomenon. Despite all sorts of belated warnings and prohibitions, the “novelty” has become widespread among all segments of the population, especially among sailors and artisans. Hence, it is not surprising that the Dutch and Flemish masters often depicted smokers as blind adherents of harmful fashion. The use of tobacco as an anti-stress agent was recommended to soldiers and sailors. On the other hand, Prince Moritz of Nassau banned smoking in the active army, and Admiral Piet Hein did the same in the navy.
The whole range of contradictory associations that tobacco smokers evoked among contemporaries is conveyed in a popular poem by Jacob Kats:
And lard, and bacon, and beef tenderloin,
I dare to call you a stupefying whim.
There is another dish, and I am completely satisfied with it:
In a pouch, in a sleeve – it is always with me.
My mouth and my tongue are the cook and the kitchen,
A tin of tobacco – there is no better pantry,
Supplies for the meal will more than deliver to me.
Tobacco leaf – hot! – hungry lips
And my two nostrils are like chimneys!
Smoke is booze, it’s drunker than wine
I will find my joy in it in full!
I don’t even need a napkin for a meal –
It is rare to see such grace.
Well, envy! I am blessed and glad
With a minimum of financial costs.
Private collection, Switzerland