Boors Smoking

WAG 37


Teniers the Younger was best known for his small-scale cabinet pictures of rural and low-life tavern scenes in Flanders. Some of his earliest dated paintings of 1633 took up the theme of men and women smokers in the squalid dimly-lit smoking dens (tabagies) that served strong tobacco as well as alcohol. The vacant look of the main figure may suggest the stupefying effect of inhaling strong tobacco fumes. Teniers continued to paint such scenes throughout his life. The contrast between the low-life scenes and the grander houses of the prosperous town-dwellers and court aristocracy in which they hung may have accounted for their popularity. The subject also offered the artist an opportunity to display his skill: here smoke blown through the man’s pursed lips trails across his face. Teniers was one of the most successful artists in the southern Netherlands. He was prized by Antwerp art dealers, Brussels courtiers and widely collected in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England.