One of the most important Dutch painters of rustic genre scenes, Cornelis Bega was likely a student of Adriaen van Ostade, who also specialized in this subject. In the 1660s, Bega concentrated on tavern scenes; in this work, he masterfully portrays the atmosphere of the gloomy, cluttered tavern interior and its six inhabitants. The message of the painting is ambiguous. On one level, the image may offer a moral commentary on the vices of smoking and drinking; on the other hand, in Bega’s time, tobacco was considered to have medicinal properties and beer brewing was integral to the Dutch economy.
Oil on canvas
19 3/4 x 18 in. (50.2 x 45.7 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 73.13