Jacob Ochtervelt
(Rotterdam, 1634-1682, Amsterdam)
The Backgammon Players, ca. 1667/69
Oil on panel, 59 x 46.5 cm
Donahue 42
The game being played by the lady and the gentleman is known from medieval representations, and is still enjoyed; backgammon. This was very popular in the Netherlands in the 17th century, as shown by countless pictures and drawings. Two persons play on a board with zig-zag pattern, a number of black and white pieces and a pair of dice. Here the man is holding them, about to drop them in the cup being held out to him by the woman. To the right a boy with a jug in his left hand is bringing a glass of red wine on a tray. The table between the players is covered with a carpet. On the rear wall of the room there is a large hanging, hard to say whether painted or knotted, with an antique scene, hard to identify, represented on it. It appears to show two laurel-wreathed commanders in a triumphal procession. A canopy bed, with bluish-black hangings, stands to the left. The brick-red, furtrimmed jacket of the woman is the main chromatic accent of the picture. Her gown is of silvery silk; the cushion of the stool on the edge of which she sits is lilac-coloured; the cushion of the chair on which the dog sleeps is mossy bluish green. Precious, saturated colours which are doubly intense in effect because everything else in the picture is dark and earthen. The picture can be dated by comparison with a painting by Ochtervelt in Dresden, which bears the date 1669. In that picture, a very similar gentleman appears, and the costumes and hair styles of the ladies also resemble each other closely in the two paintings.