In a darkened, rustic tavern, a couple sits at a barrel table drinking. The ruddy-faced man with a scarlet, fur-lined red cap raises a stoneware jug while draping his arm around his much younger companion, who holds a more elegant glass. The theme of "Unequal Lovers" has enjoyed tremendous popularity in art and literature since the Middle Ages, if not Antiquity, and was treated by Teniers on several occasions. Erasmus of Rotterdam, for example, referenced this subject in his Praise of Folly (quoting Aristophanes' scorn for old men as 'nasty, crumpled, miserable, shriveled, bald, toothless and wanting their baubles', who are so delighted with life that they dye their grey hair, acquire false teeth and propose to dowryless young women). While the difference in age of Teniers' couple is not as extreme, there is certainly a moralizing message behind their interaction, cautioning the spectator to beware squandering one's days with excess and vice. Unlike similar scenes of drinking and smoking by his predecessor, Adriaen Brouwer, Teniers eschews extreme gestures in favor of more subtle, individualized expressions and emotions.
In the 18th century, this painting was part of the famous collection at Corsham Court, in Wiltshire, which Paul Cobb Methuen had inherited in 1757 from his cousin and godfather, the diplomat and ambassador Sir Paul Methuen (1672-1757). In 1806, John Britton praised Sir Paul Methuen's connoisseurship and the collection as a whole, writing, "The Methuen collection, I believe, is the only one made at that period which has continued perfect to the present time" (op. cit., p. 105). At Corsham Court, A boor and a young women drinking in a tavern was exhibited with a pendant, also by Teniers, of a man and woman smoking (present location unknown), which was described in 1831 by John Smith as "A boor and a Female sitting at table together; the latter is lighting her pipe. In the back of the room are four men smoking and drinking" (op. cit., p. 430, no. 644).