TENIERS, David the Younger
(b. 1610, Antwerpen, d. 1690, Bruxelles)

The Kermis at the Half Moon Inn

Oil on canvas, 93 x 132 cm
Gemäldegalerie, Dresden

Depictions of the 'kermis' or rural fair belong to an iconographic and compositional tradition founded in the Netherlands in about 1550 by Pieter Brueghel the Elder. So when David Teniers painted his first country fair in i637, his native town of Antwerp could already look back on an almost century-long tradition in this genre.

The Kermis at the Half Moon Inn shown here demonstrates how Teniers had grown away from Adriaen Brouwer and developed his own style, distinguished primarily by a lighter overall tone and warmer, more radiant colours. The scale of his figures is somewhat reduced in his village scenes, so that they fit more convincingly into his broad, expansive landscapes with their subtly shaded atmospheres. The festivities are being held here in a square, bounded on two sides by a wooden fence, in front of a village tavern similar to that in many other Flemish kermis paintings. A path leads off to the left in the direction of Antwerp Cathedral, which gives the rural festivities a local and municipal frame of reference. The sky, with its vivid stretches of cloud and the gold-tinged light of the evening on the left, is given a special weight, which lends the scene a cool, airy atmosphere and a festive mood.

The joyful, lively antics of the farmers are not based on Teniers's own observations, but are pieced together from the handed-down repertoire of motifs for this genre, which were constantly varied and modified. They include the musicians standing on their podium, the three couples doing a round dance in the foreground, the drunk who is being helped home by two farmers, and the man who is leaning by the fence in an attack of nausea. At the end of the canvas on the right edge we also see the motif of the 'unequal couple': Teniers had already used lecherous old farmers hugging young girls as a single motif for a painting.