The misers

Our picture combines two types of painting - genre scenes of misers (ultimately derived from 'The Banker and his Wife' by Quentin Metsys (1514) now in the Louvre, Paris) and seventeenth century Dutch still-life scenes.

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Painting of The Misers
The Misers
David Ryckaert III
17th c.

Nicholas Penny of the National Gallery suggested in 2000 that our painting, which is of indeterminate date and executed on canvas, may in its turn be based on an actual sixteenth-century picture, and in any case may be intended to recall sixteenth-century examples on panel.

The painting shows an old man and woman weighing coins. The old woman is wearing a pair of nose spectacles of the Nuremberg type, in which the frame is constructed from a single continuous piece of copper wire. This cheap mass-produced visual aid contrasts with the value of the items on the table. Spectacles were seen as a sign of meanness and to be depicted wearing them in a painting could sometimes carry with it quite negative connotations. Interestingly the picture suggests that this notion has lingered into the seventeenth century.

You may click on the image of the painting to enlarge it.

David Ryckaert III (bapt. Dec. 1612; d.1661) was a Flemish painter, who was taught by his father David Ryckaert II (1586-1642). Starting off as a landscape painter, he soon specialised in genre scenes under the influence of Adriaen Brouwer and David Teniers II. His work often shows alehouse interiors or ‘professional’ men. Other themes include children’s games, musical parties, and imaginary scenes with witches and ghosts. In 1636 Ryckaert became a master in the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke and in 1652 was appointed its Dean. Among his patrons was Archduke Leopold William, governor of the Spanish Netherlands.

Ryckaert’s early genre scenes were in the manner of Brouwer, but between about 1640 and 1650 his approach to genre scenes changed; rough peasant types were replaced by dignified people, often engaged in musical activity. He also painted new themes, such as The Alchemist (1648; Brussels, Musée de l’Art Ancien), a subject commonly painted by Teniers. It was also because of Teniers that Ryckaert began to use a greater range of colours and decorative elements.

Towards 1650 Ryckaert also turned to religious and mythological themes. The final stage of his stylistic development can be seen in his picture In the Alehouse (Antwerp, Huis Osterrieth), which combines Teniers’ anecdotal manner of painting with an idyllic and sentimental character.

Ryckaert on occasion painted people weighing money; witness a painting of The Goldweigher (a bespectacled old man) once in the Lilienfeld Collection, Vienna, while the artist’s Allegory of Greed, in a sale at Dorotheum’s, Vienna, 3-6 Dec 1968 (lot 112), shows an old woman weighing coins at a table; a similar box of weights to that in the BOA Museum’s picture lies on the table.

Like many painters of the time, Ryckaert sometimes repeated the same figure in different compositions. For instance, the same elderly man is recognisable in several versions of The Alchemist and in scenes with drinking peasants; nor is he dissimilar to the figure seen in the BOA Museum’s picture of The Misers.