Cornelis Saftleven

Gorinchem 1607 - Rotterdam 1681

The so-called “farmer's concert”; a self-portrait of the artist, and his brother Herman (b. 1609), as musicians, in a fantasy setting.

Oil on panel, 36 x 48.5 cm
Remnants of a signature, lower left.



Private Collection, Germany.


Essay by Michael J. Ripps, D.Phil. available.

Additionnal Information

Cornelis Saftleven hailed from a family of able artists and presumably had training from his father Herman (c. 1580 – 1627), along with his brother Herman the Younger (1609 – 1685). Cornelis resided for some years in Utrecht with the latter, and the present composition (which includes depictions of Cornelis and Herman jr) appears, on stylistic grounds, to stem from that period in the middle 1630s.


In Cornelis' early works, such as our panel, one finds the unmistakable influence of the short-lived genre gamechanger, Adriaen Brouwer (1605 - 1638). Here, the background figures blowing smoke and raising a passglas aloft feel as if they could have leapt off the panel of Brouwer's iconic Smokers, c. 1636, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (fig.1


About this moment, Cornelis also painted the rightly-renowned, refined double-portrait of himself and his brother in the Two Musicians, c. 1633 (Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna), and our picture is rather a hybrid of the low genre of Brouwer's Smokers and the high(er) genre of the Two Musicians. From the Vorsterman print depicting Cornelis for the Iconographie and the Meyssen print depicting the portly, wide-headed Herman jr for De Bie's Het Gulden Cabinet (1662), there can be no doubt the figure playing violin is Cornelis, while Herman plays cello. The skill of music and the skill of painting, and the incisive intellect required for both endeavors, appears to contrast with the common ribaldry that one can associate with the indulgences of tobacco and drink, even if the allegorical intentions of this scene are unclear to the present writer (although the sleeping, faithful dog appears to turn his rear, indifferently, toward skilled and unskilled merrymaking alike – a potential clue at Cornelis' pictorial intent?)