Workshop of Peter Paul Rubens and Peter Paul Rubens, Peasants Fighting over a Game of Cards, oil on panel, 73.2 x 104.6 cm, estimate € 200,000 – 300,000
Jars of ale flying, corn-threshers whirling, wives brawling – the drama of a low-life scene such as this would surely have been a talking point in the grand mansion of Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp at which several versions of this work could be found. The empty beer jugs and scattered playing cards lying in the dirt may have been intended to convey a moralizing message about the perils of drunkenness and gambling. Alternatively, this could be an example of what Flemish painters are famous for: simply enjoying painting the world around them, and finding humour in the every day. The originator of this composition was Pieter ‘Peasant’ Brueghel the Elder, the father of Rubens’ great friend and collaborator, Jan Brueghel I. Rubens took pleasure in re-inventing and improving the works of the generation of artists that preceded him, and the present panel is a diverting testament to this practice.