Hendrick de Meijer
(1620 – 1689/1698)
A sleigh and ice-skaters on the frozen canal nearby the Oude Ooster Hoofdpoort in Rotterdam
Oil on canvas, 45.3 x 62.5 cm
Private collection, the Netherlands
In the foreground of this painting, one immediately notices a man doing his business. The artist often chose to depict these humorous scenes in order to provoke laughter from the viewer. When the owner of the painting would show off his newly acquired work to a friend or visitor; it served as a conversation starter.
In 2015, a discovery was made on the painting Dorpskermis met een kerk in de achtergrond by Isaac van Ostade ( 1621-1649), in the Royal Collection in the United Kingdom. During the restoration, a pooping man, who had been over-painted at the beginning of the 20th century, was unveiled. King George IV (1762-1830) appreciated the little figure and bought the work, but his prude Victorian successor Edward VII (1841-1910), the son of Queen Victoria (1819-1901), was not as fond of the joke.
The 17th century artists often painted such subjects, partly as a joke, partly to emphasize their inspiration: nature. Sometimes, a commissioner did not pay enough or got in an argument with the artist, who would then depict himself in a demeaning squatting position.