Smokers in a tavern1631 - 1640. Oil on panel, 52 x 65 cm.
A group of villagers sit or stand indoors, smoking around a barrel that serves as their table. In the background, another warms himself beside the fireplace, and a figure enters the room. In the foreground are cooking or tavern utensils, such as a jug, a cauldron and a barrel, which display Teniers' skill at still-life and genre scenes. Outstanding here, is the naturalness of the dog. Huddled up, he contemplates the scene's protagonists. As a representation of everyday life, this work illustrates the expansion of tobacco in Europe. Criticized and praised in equal measure, it was consumed on a customary basis at that time. Teniers takes no moral position regarding its use, as there is no openly critical element here, although the grotesqueness of the characters is significant as a possible illustration of vice. Beginning with figures by his teacher, Adriaen Brouwer, Teniers repeated figures and groups in his many versions of taverns and smokers. The present one is first listed in 1794, at Madrid's Royal Palace.