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Old Man in an Inn

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Adriaen Brouwer
oil on panel
35 x 28 x 0.4 cm
Inventory number IB 08.004

Like Rubens, van Dyck and Jordaens, Adriaen Brouwer was one of the great Flemish artists of the 17th century. Yet today, just five of his works are in Flemish hands, including this painting of an Old Man in an Inn. It shows a man sleeping in a chair opposite the stove in the local tavern. Beside him rests an earthenware beer mug. The combination of drink and warmth has apparently made him drowsy. Behind him, the room is dimly lit. A man is expressing his amorous intentions to a woman. Drink, amorous couples and idleness are recurrent motifs in tavern scenes. They refer to the deadly sins of gluttony, lust and sloth, which are often associated with one another. Drinking induces sleep, sleeping stimulates lecherous thoughts, and lechery makes thirsty. Still, the painting goes beyond illustrating the sins. It clearly also contains a warning: above the amorous couple, a man has poked his head through an opening in the wall, suggesting that indecent behaviour never goes unnoticed.

Self-criticism

Note the overpainted area in the foreground of the composition, in between the legs of the sleeping man. Here, Brouwer had originally painted a second beer mug, but presumably he felt it did not enhance the composition and therefore omitted it.

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