Gerard Ter Borch

Zwolle 1617 - Deventer 1681

A guardroom interior with a soldier blowing smoke in the face of his sleeping companion, a third looking on.

A guardroom interior with a soldier blowing smoke in the face of his sleeping companion, a third looking on.

Oil on Panel, 47 x 36.8 cm



Anonymous sale; de Winter, Amsterdam, 8 September 1773, lot 33;
J. de Neufville, from whom acquired in 1782 for 450 fl. by
Gerrit van der Pot; (+), sale, Rotterdam, 6 June 1808, lot 124 (33 fl. to Roelfsma);
(Possibly) with John Smith, from whom acquired by
P. O'Rial, Paris;
Baron Edmond de Bussière, Paris;
Portalès, London;
with Kleinberger, Paris;
(Probably) August de Ridder, Schönberg bei Cronberg-im-Tanus;
Adolf Mayer, Speyer, The Hague and New York, by 1938;
with Edward Speelman, London, 1955;
with Alfred Brod, London, 1956;
Herbert Girardet, Kettwig, by 1963, and by descent;
Sotheby's, New York, 22 January 2004, lot 33, where acquired after the sale by the Hascoe family. 
Christie’s, New York, 4 July 2014, lot 29.


C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeeth Century, London, 1912, V, p. 39, no. 99;
E. Plietszch, Gerard ter Borch, Vienna, 1944, p. 40, under no. 15. W. Stechow, "The Adolf Mayer Collection", Bulletin of the Allen Memorial Art Museum, V, 1948, pp. 11-12, no. 14;
"Notable Works of Art Now on the Market", Burlington Magazine, suppl., 1955, fig. 17;
S.J. Gudlaugsson, Gerard ter Borch, The Hague, 1959, I, pp. 89-90, 252, no. 94 I;
S.J. Gudlaugsson, Katalog der Gemälde Gerard ter Borchs, The Hague, 1960, II, p. 105, no. 94 I;
E. Plietzsch, review of Gudlaugsson 1959-1960, Kunstchronik, XIV, 1961, p. 139;
H. Vey and A Kesting, Katalog der niederländischen Gemälde von 1550 bis 1800 im Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, 1967, pp. 20-21, under no. 1001.
N. Salomon, Jacob Duck and the Gentrification of Dutch Genre Painting, Doornspijk, 1998, p. 65, no. 128,

J. Giltaij, Senses and Sins: Dutch painters of daily life in the seventeenth century, exhibition catalogue, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2004, p. 176, under no. 44, fig. 1. 


Paris, Société de protection des Alsaciens et Lorrains demeuré français, Explication des Ouvrages de Peinture exposés au profit de la colonization de l'Algérie par les Alsaciens-Lorrains, 1874, no. 341;
Providence, Rhode Island Museum, Dutch painting in the seventeenth century, December-25 January 1938, no. 55 (catalogue by W. Stechow). Oberlin, Allen Memorial Art Museum, on loan, 1948;
Recklinghausen, Kunsthalle, Gesammelt im Ruhrgebiet, 1963, no. 81;

Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum and Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Sammlung Herbert Girardet. Höllandische und Flämische Meister, 24 January-30 March and 24 April-7 June 1970, no. 9 (catalogue by H. Vey);
Greenwich, Bruce Museum, Old Master Paintings from the Hascoe Collection, 2 April-29 May 2005, no. 7 (catalogue by P. Sutton). 

Additionnal Information

Throughout his career, Ter Borch demonstrated his interest in capturing military life, having been exposed to its rhythms from early on as a child growing up in a garrison town in the province of Overijssel. In the 1650s, following the end of the Eighty Years' War (1648), the artist took to creating intimate guardroom scenes executed in earth tones and featuring a few figures organized in vertical compositions, of which the present painting is a prime example. While soldiers increasingly found their way into middle-class surroundings in Dutch painting of the period as a result of their shifting roles in peacetime, Ter Borch channeled the rustic atmosphere of earlier genre scenes of this type by depicting a simple, makeshift setting. At home in a rough environment where rubbish litters the floor and a weathered plank resting on a barrel passes for a table, three men have found different ways of passing the time. A portly officer, presumably exhausted from overindulgence in drink and tobacco, has made himself comfortable by unbuttoning his trousers and pulling down his boots before falling into a deep slumber. One of his companions entertains himself by blowing smoke into his face to rouse him under the distracted gaze of a ruddy soldier lighting his pipe.

Likely originating in the work of Jacob Duck, the theme of a soldier being tickled awake was treated once more by Ter Borch in a composition dated to around 1656-1657 and now in the Taft Museum, Cincinnati (S.J. Gudlaugsson, op. cit., 1960, no. 121), although in that instance the culprit takes the form of an attractive young woman. While such amusing scenes were intended to delight viewers, they were probably also meant as cautionary reminders of the importance of maintaining military vigilance. Indeed, despite the peace with Spain, the Netherlands remained vulnerable in the 1650s, especially along the German border, where forces spreading Counter-Reformation doctrine needed to be kept in check.

An autograph copy of this painting, minus details such as the clay pipe resting on the plank, is now housed in the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne (ibid., no. 94 II, ill. p. 253; H. Gerson believed it was a copy). Containing various pentimenti, the present painting was first recognized as the original version by Wolfgang Stechow (loc. cit., p. 12), a conclusion supported by Gudlaugsson (loc. cit., 1960), who identified three copies of the composition, as well as by Plietzsch (loc. cit.) in 1961.