Pieter Jansz. Quast (Amsterdam 1605/6-1647 Amsterdam) Merry company or the allegory of seduction

Little is known about Pieter Jansz. Quast's life before he married Annetje Splinters on 19 December 1632. Shortly after the marriage the couple moved to Annetje's native city The Hague where she gave birth to a daughter and another child whose name remains unknown. The couple lived on the east side of the "Groene Burchwal", the area where Jan van Goyen (1596-1656) and Paulus Potter (1625-1654) lived. Pieter spent most of his life in his native city Amsterdam, though he lived nine years in The Hague where he became a member of the St. Luke Guild (1634-1643).

The young couple faced a financially bumpy life, with several disturbing happenings due to Annetje's unruly character. The most imagining scene Annetje's face being mutilated by Caspar Ruybergen with the base of a smashed "Roemer" glass in their home at the Kalverstraat after she insulted him having visited numerous prostitutes "Wel, mynheer, ick looff wel dat gy der wel hondert getast en gevoelt hebt..." (well, dear Sir., I assume you must have been intimate with over a hundred of them).

Quast is best known as a draughtsman depicting low-life genre scenes with peasants, soldiers, conversation pieces, theater scenes, allegories and biblical scenes, often filled with folly and humour. The majority of his drawings executed in pencil and grey wash on vellum and seldomly in red chalk. Pieter Jansz.'s main sources of inspiration are Jacques Callot (1592-1635), Adriaen Brouwer (1605/6-1638) and also Adriaen van de Venne (1589-1662). The influence of Callot's work on Quast was so big, Quast was called the "Dutch Callot". The Commedia dell'Arte was a main source for Callot.[1]

Travelling actors (mainly British) played on stage theaters in Amsterdam (Coster's Academy and the Schouwburg) and The Hague performing popular figures as Hanswurst and Pickleherring. Besides these professional actors and Rederijkers (amateurs), the fairs where populated with rope-dancers, animal acts and quacks. Especially the fairs in May and September in The Hague must have been inspiring resources for Quast during his years in the city.[2]


The present drawing shows a pyramidal shaped composition which appealed to Quast just like his choice of preference for comic theatre types. This sheet is of exceptionally large size within Quast's oeuvre and shows one of the buffoons similar to the one in the drawing preserved at the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam. The seated figure on the far right on our drawing holding a pasglas (a large measuring glass filled with beer, used for drinking games) is the same as the one on the far right in the Boijmans drawing. These figures were directly inspired by Callot's Balli di Sfessania of 1621.[3]

The men seated around the table are occupied with the alluring aspects of life. Smoking, drinking (the seated figure on the far right holds a so-called "pasglas") and an old woman with a basket of eggs under a blanket symbolising female sexual seduction. The octagonal pasglas being the most common shape in the seventeenth century, the pasglas in our drawing is a round one, which seems to have been chosen carefully as will be declared later on.

Several other men are occupied with drinking and smoking, their characterfull facial expressions much indebted to the vibrant style of Adriaen Brouwer. The peasant exhaling his smoke while he holds his claypipe comes very close to Brouwer's "The smoker/Allegory on the Taste" in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. A man who seems to have been drinking quite a load is taking a leak into a bucket on the far left. These low-life activities very much appealed to Brouwer and Quast.[4]

Pasglazen were used for games amongst men and each participant was deemed to drink his pas (=measurement) in one go. When failing, he had to drink the next pas as well, resulting in a swift stage of drunkenness, symbolized by the man on the left, who already has passed-out and snoozes on the tabletop. Paintings, drawings and prints depicting scenes with a pasglas may be regarded as warnings against moral decay as well as sultry love.

Here the cone-shaped pasglas also allegorizes a phallic symbol, boldly held by the man with his right hand as he watches the approaching elder woman.

Pieter Nolpe engraved after Pieter Jansz. Quast and Adriaen Brouwer as well. One of the most striking examples by Nople after Quast is the engraving and etching "Drinking peasants and a scatting boy".[5]

The signature comes very close to the signed and dated drawing "Mocking of the Spaniard" in the coll. Custodia/Frits Lugt, Paris.[6]




[1] A. Bredius, 'Pieter Jansz. Quast', Oud-Holland 20 (1902), p. 65-82

[2] B.A. Stanton-Hirst, 'Pieter Quast and the theatre', Oud Holland 96 (1982), p. 213-237

[3] Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, inv. nr. PQ1

[4] Adriaen Brouwer, De roker. Oil on panel, 305 x 215 mm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Inv. SK-A-4040

[5] Pieter Nolpe, Drinkend boezengezelschap. Engraving and etching, 180 x 211 mm. Hollstein Dutch 290

[6] Pieter Jansz. Quast, The mocking of the Spaniard. Black chalk, India ink on vellum, 252 x 356 mm. Signed on the lower centre "Pieter Quast" and dated "1641". Fondation Custodia/Frits Lugt collection, Paris. 

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