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A Brawl in a Guard-room

A fight has broken out among two young men playing cards: is this a dispute about the cards they have played, which we can see lying face up on the table, or something else? Two older soldiers stand by, seeming to mediate this conflict – but one gazes off into the distance, perhaps remembering other battles. The presence of the little boy at the centre, who is turned toward the viewer but glances with uncertainty toward the fight, completes this commentary on humanity’s inescapable relationship to conflict. The French painter Sébastien Bourdon (1616-1671) may have drawn on his own experiences as a soldier when formulating this subject.

Bourdon trained as a painter in Paris, France, and spent some time as a soldier before making a trip to Rome, Italy, in 1634, where he was influenced by the seventeenth-century Dutch painter and printmaker Pieter van Laer (1599-1642), known as ‘Il Bamboccio’ (‘the clumsy one’) and his followers, known as the 'Bamboccianti'. These were a group of mainly Northern European painters working in mid-seventeenth-century Rome who produced often small-scale, somewhat bawdy depictions of everyday life, from which Bourdon has drawn influence.

Currently on display

Sébastien Bourdon
Gallery 4
74.9 x 60.6 cm
Oil on canvas
Fairfax Murray Gift, 1911
Accession number