A soldier and a young woman face each other over the final, winning hand in a card game. The soldier exhales as his companion holds a card behind her back and looks with complicity in the viewer's direction. The scoreboard sits on her lap between them and the soldier's lute rests at his side, waiting to be picked up and played. The bravura of Quast's signature brushwork is central to the light, slightly tipsy tone of the scene, which can also be seen in his Soldiers at an Inn, dated 1640, in Karlsruhe.
Quast is best known for small scale genre scenes painted in a limited palette, as is A soldier and a laughing girl, but he was also an accomplished draftsman and seems to have dabbled in sculpture. A number of signed and dated landscape drawings, seemingly intended for sale, have survived, as has a signed and dated terracotta relief of men fighting (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam). Quast's painterly style is often likened to that of fellow Amsterdam genre painter Pieter Codde but his exaggerated, almost caricatured types are more like those of The Hague satirist Adriaen van de Venne and genre painters Adriaen van Ostade and Adriaen Brouwer, to whom some of Quast's best work has been ascribed.
Pieter Quast was born in Amsterdam in 1605 or 1606. He joined the Hague Guild of St. Luke in 1634 and is mentioned in its documents until late 1643. By January 1644 he had moved back to Amsterdam where he remained until his death in 1647. An interesting note about the provenance of this painting is that it belonged to the actor John Wayne, who gave it to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1954.
We are grateful to Fred Meijer of the RKD for confirming the attribution of this painting to Pieter Quast (written communication, 18 October 2005).