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The scene stands within the tradition of peasant satire that originated in the southern Netherlands in the sixteenth century, aiming to expose the vices of mankind. Here the mother attempting to feed her child recalls the seventeenth-century Dutch proverb ‘Open wide when someone offers you pap, or else later you will receive nothing’. The moral outcome of the tale is underlined by the disordered poverty of the interior, with mussel shells littering the floor and a group of idle men drinking and chatting in the background. Ostade was a sensitive observer of mother-child relationships, and appears to have been the first contemporary artist to explore this theme in a low-life context. The picturesque rustic interior reveals Ostade’s meticulous technique, attention to detail and increasing mastery of spatial illusion, typical of his work in the 1660s.

The Wallace Collection





oil on oak panel


H 34.1 x W 39.7 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

acquired by Francis Charles Seymour-Conway, 3rd Marquess of Hertford by 1829; bequeathed to the nation by Lady Wallace, 1897

Work type



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The Wallace Collection

Hertford House, Manchester Square, London, Greater London W1U 3BN England

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