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Storytelling in Miniature

Adriaen van Ostade
Dutch, 1610–1685

The Peasant Paying His Debt

Etching, about 1646
4 x 3 1/4 in.
Museum purchase, 1926.1

Like his teacher Frans Hals, the Dutch painter and printmaker Adriaen van Ostade depicted the daily activities of the lower classes with a realism that verged on caricature. He etched with a highly expressive, lively, and sketchy line. In his later works Ostade was influenced by Rembrandt’s dramatic use of contrasting lights and darks. In this print the room is flooded with light from the doorway while the foreground is in shadow. The effect is as if the viewer is looking at the scene through a hole in a wall in the next room.