Frans Pourbus the Elder, attributed to
1545 Bruges - 1581 Antwerp
Oil on panel (parquetted). 81,5 x 113 cm.
About a comparable painting cf. Mayer van den Bergh : Music and Painting in the Golden Age, in: Exhibition catalogue: Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder, The Hague 1994, p. 53, ill. no. 20.
This present painting, a so-called „buitenpartij,“ an outdoor entertainment that within genre painting sets itself apart from lowly peasant scenes and belongs to the more lofty realm of the middle-class. Elegantly dressed young men and women wearing fashionable high hats, puffed pants and ruffled collars enjoy themselves in a garden with eating, drinking and dancing. In the right of the painting, at middle ground, couples have separated from the group and the artist leaves no questions as to their intentions. The dog at foreground as well as a falcon at the right margin allude to hunting, another pursuit of the ruling classes.
In most cases the moralizing message of a “buitenpartij” is to warn the viewer to distance himself from such pleasures and excesses, which are considered to be a frivolous waste of time and of worldly pride. One of the origins of the “buitenpartij” is to be found in the pictorial tradition of religious representations such as “The Prodigal Son”, where a Biblical subject with moral intent is joined with depictions of drunken feasts and erotic overtones. It cannot be ruled out that the present picture still has a religious connotation.
The present painting stands close to works by Frans Pourbus the Elder and for this reason it here for the first time is attributed to him and for discussion. The painting is particularly comparable to a painting attributed to Pourbus in the Museum Mayer van den Bergh in Antwerp. In this painting there also is a group at table with music. The young black page which is at the immediate foreground in the present painting appears at the left of the Antwerp painting. A still-life like arrangement is to be found in the lower left of the present painting and at lower right in the Antwerp painting. Comparable, too, is the view of a hilly landscape at the background, flanked by trees and blocked at middle by an architectural ensemble.
Frans Pourbus the Elder, grandson of Lancelot Blondeel and son of Pieter Pourbus, was born in Bruges. In 1569 he was a registered master both in Antwerp and Bruges. He was one of the most important Flemish portraitists of his time yet also painted historical and genre scenes. His son Frans Pourbus the Younger continued the family tradition and was court painter to the Gonzagas in Mantua and then to the French monarchy.