Willem van Herp the Elder
Tavern Interior With Card Players And Smokers
71x96cm, Oil on copper
Willem van Herp the Elder was an important Flemish painter of narratives who specialised in religious and genre scenes. His rustic interior compositions follow the style of Adriaen Brower and David Teniers. In 1625/26 he was a member of the Guild of St. Luke in Antwerp, studying under Damiaen Wortelmans and Hans Biermans. He had a brilliant career there and became the Master of the Guild in 1636 – 1637 and 1644 – 1654, having many students. Around 1651 Herp was associated with the Flemish art dealer M. Musson, for whom he would retouch some copies of paintings by Pieter Paul Rubens. Herp had two children, Norbertus and Willem, who also became painters. The artist’s works were very successful in Spain and England. His widespread recognition was greatly due to the numerous engravings made of his works by English engravers.
Today Willem van Herp’s works are preserved in the most important museums worldwide, including the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels, Belgium; the National Museum of Fine Arts, Dublin, Ireland; the National Gallery, Dunkerque, France; the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland; the National Museum of Fine Arts, Stockholm, Sweden; the Palace of Fine Arts, Lille, France; the National Gallery, London, England; the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, England; the Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain; the New York Historical Society, New York, USA; the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, USA; the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, USA; the Harrach Gallery, Vienna, Austria.
This painting depicts a vivid scene of a card game, with masterfully created group of various characters turning the scene into a dynamic environment of lively interaction. The painting is a convincing description of the era’s lifestyle, which, at a closer look reveals quite a few humanly comical moments. Although the characters are socializing with each other over the game, each one still has his own independent role in the situation, a part in the narrative composed by Herp – someone is standing by the window, someone is entering through the door, someone is peeking over a player’s shoulder to see his cards. In this painting it is most fascinating to see the individuality of each character, yet each gure ideally combines with others and an exciting entirety is formed.
In the artist’s compositions there are certain characteristic elements that make the works of van Herp easily recognisable: one example would be the inclusion of cats and dogs, usually in the bottom corners of the scene, which many experts consider to be the artist’s signature. Also in this picture a white cat can be seen in the lower right corner.
Private collection, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Private collection, Zürich, Switzerland
Art Rules, 2015, Tallinn, Estonia