IT’S FAIR DAY in this small Dutch village whose bell tower can be seen in the distance. Unless the imposing ruins in the background of the painting evoke the remains of a fortification or an abandoned monastery? It must be said that the 17th century was one of endless torments and wars. The last one lasted thirty years, no less, from 1618 to 1648, tearing the continent apart, ruining the cities, decimating the populations. So, when a fair returns or a few traders are passing through, we gather, charmed. The painter and engraver van Renesse, a student of the great Rembrandt, enjoys staring at the scene to decry the sneaky game of these barkers, taking advantage of the naive crowds and carefree onlookers. On stage, high up, there are two of them, holding their audience in suspense in the great tradition of fairground peddlers. We are almost in the theater: everyone knows the artificial nature of the remarks made but we have so much pleasure in receiving them. What if, for once, miracle solutions were really within reach to alleviate the ills of existence?
Behind the crowd, another smooth talker waits his turn, holding the object of his know-how in a cage: the man offers remedies to get rid of rats. There are also musicians there who are busy, beggars… We listen, we get busy and we compete for a good place. Others take the opportunity to plant a kiss or steal a purse. With the tip of his stylus, the artist strives to make this scene colorful through the simple effects of its grayness. Printed, its image will delight many other curious people, forever contemplating the paradoxes of the human comedy.