Jan Olis


Wood (oak), oil, 41 x 61 cm
Below, left (on the barrel) signature: JOlis fecit

The subject of the painting was so widespread in Dutch genre painting of the first half of the 17th century that a whole typology of “guardhouses” was formed. This subject was painted not only by Jan Olis, but also by such famous Dutch artists as Anthony Palamedes, Peter Codde, Jacob Duke, Willem Deyster and others. The paintings of the “guardhouse” depicted militias - ordinary townspeople, cut off from their families and their business, forced to perform guard duty protecting the young Dutch democracy from threats from the Spanish monarchy. This plot, initially heroic and patriotic with elements of a group portrait, eventually evolved into a moralizing one by the 1640s. As the danger to the Dutch Republic subsided, irritation and dissatisfaction with the idle pastime of young able-bodied men on guard duty appeared in society. Forced idleness corrupted the shooters and drew respectable citizens into gambling, drinking, and smoking. The “guardhouse” artists reflected public concern and gradually replaced heroic pathos (remember Rembrandt’s “Night Watch”) with an undisguised didactic tone, which we see in the painting by Jan Olis. Condemned by Protestant Dutch society, the triad (cards, smoking, drinking) was especially popular among Dutch moralistic artists. It is also present in plots with careless students (“the prodigal son”), in the “cheerful societies” of golden youth, in “taverns” and peasant “taverns”.

Dutch realism