Viewers of the time would have taken in at a glance not only the off-key carousing but also signs—the fancy shoes, frizzy hair, open collar, and so on—that make the symbolic satyr redundant. Quast worked in the cosmopolitan milieus of Amsterdam and The Hague. His paintings and finished drawings reveal a broad knowledge of Dutch, Flemish, and French popular imagery (including Callot’s etchings) as well as the comic stage.
This colorful Merry Company was painted in the mid- to late 1630s, to judge from broad qualities of pictorial style, such as the arrangement of space and lighting, and from the more fashionable articles of clothing. At the time, the artist lived in The Hague. His knowledge of Amsterdam painter Pieter Codde's work is obvious in this picture, which was attributed to Codde from 1929; on that occasion, the monogram was read as PC], and perhaps much earlier. Even after the painting's bequest to the Museum in 1970, it was little known, and was rarely exhibited before conservation treatment in 1995–96. In 1986, Sutton suggested the attribution to Quast; in 1989, Müller Hofstede concurred and proposed a date in the later 1630s. Quast's usual PQ monogram, painted in red on the shirt of the singing young man, became legible with cleaning in 1995. The x-radiograph made at that time reveals that the painting underwent many transformations. Two copies of this work are known from old photographs. One, attributed to Herman Doncker, was in the collection of K. M. von Wolf in about 1900; the other was with D. Katz, Dieren, in about 1933, and introduces a landscape into the left background. The first appears to date from the seventeenth century; the second must have been painted after 1700. [2013; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Signed (right, on man's shirt): PQ
Benjamin C. Smith, Paisley, Scotland (as by Vermeer); [Art Collectors Association, London, in about 1925, as by A. Palamedesz?]; ?[Galerie Dr. Schäffer, Berlin, in 1929, as by Pieter Codde]; ?Siegfried Bieber, Berlin, later New York (by 1929–d. 1960); Josephine (Mrs. Siegfried) Bieber, New York (1960?–d. 1970)
Berlin. Galerie Dr. Schäffer. "Die Meister des Holländischen Interieurs," April–May 1929, no. 20 (as "Lustige Geschellschaft," by Pieter Codde).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.
Peter C. Sutton. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1986, p. 187, suggests an attribution to Pieter Quast.
Justus Müller Hofstede. Letter to Walter Liedtke. April 22, 1989, attributes it to Pieter Quast and dates it to the later 1630s.
Jean L. Druesedow in "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1989–1990." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 48 (Fall 1990), p. 56.
Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. 360, 540–42, no. 139, colorpl. 139
, dates it to the mid- to late 1630s.