At one end, the large house serves as a backdrop for the scene, at the other a group of figures by the drinking house watch as the figure in the white shirt stands out as he bends to take aim. His target is a stick fixed in the ground rather than a jack and they play on uneven ground rather than grass – far from the smooth lawns used today – but it is essentially the same game.
One figure has his back turned to us relieving himself of his many drinks. The perspective leads to a background landscape with scattered trees.
This very finely painted oil on oak panel has all the hallmarks of David Teniers (1610-1690). He was born into a family of artists and his father, David Teniers “the Elder”, was his first master; indeed, he is referred to by scholars as “David Teniers II”. He joined the Guild of St Luke in 1633 and began to sign and date his paintings that same year. During the early stage of his career his genre paintings were inspired by Brouwer and his landscapes display the influence of Momper and Bril.
However Teniers’ artistic career was marked by two decisive events, his marriage to one of Jan Brueghel’s daughters, who was also Rubens’ goddaughter, in 1637; and his entering the service of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm in 1647. In 1664 he succeeded in founding the Academy of Antwerp after Philip IV of Spain granted his request as court painter. Teniers lived to a very old age for the period, as he was 80 when he died.
The artist treats a theme that may be traced back at least a century to Tenier’s father in law, Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1568-1625). Teniers favoured scenes of peasant life, which were very popular among Teniers’s wealthy, urban clientele.
Teniers frequently depicted players of skittles or other peasant games, such as bocce, which were very popular entertainment in seventeenth-century Flanders. The compositional scheme used by Teniers is similar to other works by him.