14 November 2007
Adriaen Pietersz. van de Venne (Delft 1589-1662 The Hague)
Figures brawling with onlookers on a road
inscribed 'Geweldige botticheyt.' (lower right)
oil on panel, unframed
39.7 x 55.7 cm.
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Geweldige Boticheyt, or Tremendous Bluntness shows a grindstone against which a man's head is being held by a tradesman on the left and his hefty assistant. Two women at the right gesticulate in distress as a young man at the left looks dumbly on.
The bluntness, or stupidity, of peasants and the concomitant need to "sharpen" them was a well established theme in Renaissance literature and art. The crude rustic was a type that endured through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with artists such as Brueghel and van de Venne and served as much to attack disorderly behaviors such as drunkenness as it did to lampoon peasants as a social class. Humanists such as Erasmus and Sebastian Brandt viewed social satire as a leisure activity that had restorative qualities, particularly for those weary from their studies or suffering from an illness. For them, such images could help to achieve Juvenal's 'mens sana in corpore sano' (sound mind in a sound body).
Van de Venne depicted this theme on a number of occasions and L.J. Bol dates this composition to his Hague period around 1635.
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