Sold with a certificate from Dr. Klaus Ertz (dated 6 October 2012) confirming the attribution.
The subject of the present lot must have been a very successful one for Van Cleve. Klaus Ertz mentions no less than thirteen examples in his catalogue raisonné, of which six have a similar composition to our painting (see K. Ertz). Of the works that Ertz has dated, all originate from the 1570s except this lot, which he dates to 1565-70. This potentially places it amongst the earliest known versions of this composition. Dr. Ertz explains in the accompanying certificate that the size of our painting is unusual. The limited height, but more extended width of panel has led to the composition to be more spread out compared to the others, for example the panel in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
A farmer, his wife and their child are seated at the table to the far left. The familiar gestures between them indicate their family relations. The man dressed in red is presumably a servant, holding a piece of meat in one hand and a jug in the other. The fifth figure at the table is one of the protagonists of the scene, according to Ertz. His expensive clothing distinguishes him from the farmer and his family, he is most likely a nobleman or landlord. He looks on to the centre of the room, where according to Ertz, lays the key to understanding this scene. The nobleman’s wife is kneeling by the fire, beside a wet nurse feeding a baby. She holds out a blanket, ready to wrap the baby in again. Ertz has interpreted this as a scene where a nobleman or landlord and his wife are visiting a poor peasant family to have their child fed by a wet nurse, presumably for a fee.
Besides the stark contrast in clothing, the room in which this composition is set underlines the differences between the nobleman’s family and the farmer’s. The open doors and hole in the wall to the far left emphasise the poor farmer’s situation. His house can barely protect its inhabitants against the elements. Food is strewn over the floor and animals are living under the same roof, including a pig eating from a chamber pot.