David Bles was born in The Hague in 1821 and expressed a natural talent for drawing at an early age. He enrolled at the Hague Drawing academy in 1834 and was rewarded numerous prizes and medals for his outstanding draughtmanship.
After leaving the academy, Bles entered the studio of Cornelis Kruseman (1797-1857) and studied the art of painting under his guidance. In 1841, at the age of twenty, Bles accompanied Kruseman to Paris and became acquainted with the great French history painter Robert-Fleury. Bles studied endlessly in the Louvre and soon started to produce pictures strongly inspired by his tutor's oeuvre and the romanticism of his day.
Upon his return to The Hague in 1843, the young Bles exhibited two of his early genre pieces entitled A Savoyard Hurdy-gurdy girl and A Hungarian Mousetrap-vendor. These unfortunately did not yet receive the immediate wide-spread acclaim his later work would.
Only a year later, Bles unexpectedly painted a picture of a musical gathering that revealed the artist's hidden comic nature and his apparent liking for literature. It was during this period that Dutch and foreign authors alike wrote books in a gay and humoristic tone and entertained an entire cultivated population with publications such as Ferdinand Huyck (Van Lennep, 1840), Camera Obscura (Beets, 1839-1840), Studententypen (Klikspaan, 1839-1840) and Oliver Twist (Dickens, 1839-1839). Just as Jan Steen (1626-1679) was inspired by the comedy and the farce, Bles associated himself with the literary movements of his own time. Besides a new literary climate, the social gatherings of artists at the renowned Tivoli in Amsterdam greatly influenced Bles' further artistic development. It was at this café chantant in the Nes that fellow artists organised an elaborate costumed ball in 1844 and Bles became inspired by the 18th century costume of a French comedian named Vernet. During the years following 1844, Bles fully devoted himself to painting amusing and gently satirical genre-pieces in an 18th century entourage and became The Hague's most honoured artist of his time.
Over a period of time, Bles' little anecdotal paintings made way for monumental, carefully composed, pictures sometimes containing up to eleven different figures.
De Mooie Minne en de Grootpapa's, dating from 1859, and considered to be the artist's chef-d'oeuvre (A.E.B., Sketches and Studies of David Bles, The Hague 1909, p.8) perfectly exemplifies the artist's unique ability to portray random scenes from the life of every-day people.
The present lot depicts a domestic scene in an 18th century middle-class household where a baby has just been born. On the far right, the bleak mother of the newly-born is depicted recovering in a chair. On the left, a blushing young peasant girl is admired by the two grandfathers and treated to sweets and beer. Showing his admiration for the nurse's good looks in too overt a manner, the one grandfather is duly rebuked by his jealous spouse. Without being moralistic, the painter has portrayed recognizable human weaknesses in an unrivalled playful manner.
Towards the end of the 17th century, the Dutch upper-class inscreasingly copied the customs and habits of the French aristocracy. One of these customs was the use of a nurse by women who did not want to lose their figure when breast feeding or at all costs wanted to keep up their social life. At the end of the 18th century, under the influence of the ideas of amongst others J.J. Rousseau (1712-1778), women gradually came to recognize their maternal obligations and started to feed their children themselves again. In Max Rooses' Het Schilderboek, Dr Jan ten Brink comments on the fact that Rousseau's philosophy has unfortunately not yet found it's way into Bles' household. (Max Rooses, Het Schildersboek-Nederlandse schilders der negentiende eeuw, deel I, Amsterdam 1898, p.54).
Not only did Bles owe his fame to his witty choice of subjects, but in an equal degree to his great technical power and wonderful use of colour. In De Minne en de Grootpapa's, the artist has depicted the variety of colourful fabrics and different pieces of furniture with great precision. Noteworthy are the Louis XV ormulu mounted green lacquered bracket clock and the typical 18th century panels with Louis XV mouldings. Altough Bles sought to create an 18th century interior, he did however also include some 19th century pieces such as the gilt decorated green leather six fold screen and the Turkish carpet. De Minne en de Grootpapa's combines all the artistic traits Bles was renowned for and reflects the modes of an age that so much inspired this unique artist.