©Trustees of the British Museum

Two Peasants Quarrelling over a Game of Skittles

Master FVB, ca. 1475 — 1500

Little is known about Master FVB. We do not even know his real name: the conventional appellation comes from a monogram he left on several dozen stylistically consistent compositions (among them St George and the Dragon). Two Peasants Quarrelling is a small engraving, measuring just 132 × 102 mm. It has no inscription that might suggest any meaning beyond the scene depicted. We are left just looking. In the foreground, two men are pummeling each other. The cause of the quarrel can be seen in the background – it is a game of skittles set up in front of a building, possibly an inn. It can be assumed that the engraving’s contemporary spectators appreciated not only its generic, but also its humorous aspect. Despite its modest appearance and hardly serious subject, the engraving occupies a special place in art history, being one of the earliest known genre scenes that is – as it seems – devoid of a religious or allegorical context. As for Master FVB himself, he was one of the anonymous pioneers of genre art, which would reach a high point in the seventeenth century.

Piotr Borusowski, Keeper in the Department of Prints and Drawings, Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie, Warsaw


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