DOU, Gerrit
(b. 1613, Leiden, d. 1675, Leiden)

The Quacksalver

Oil on panel, 112 x 83 cm
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam

This painting shows the characteristic qualities of the style of Dou and of the Leiden school he was to start: meticulously careful drawing, high finish or slickness even, and darkly shining colour - hence the name of the school: the Leiden Fijnschilders (fine painters).

In the present painting a charlatan is setting up his stand and offering miracle cures to passers-by. The work, rich in anecdotal details and offering enigmas aplenty, is the most famous treatment of this traditional subject. With his depiction of a quacksalver, Dou was partaking in a long tradition reaching back to Hieronymus Bosch and Lucas van Leyden. The subject was still popular in Dou's time, as evidenced by paintings by Adriaen van Ostade, Jan Steen, Frans van Mieris, and Adriaen van de Venne.