Adriaen van Ostade’s painting “The Fishwife” is a work that captures the essence of 17th-century Dutch genre painting. The exact date of the painting is uncertain, but roughly c.1660 – c.1670. It is an oil on canvas piece that belongs to the Baroque period and is currently housed in the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, Hungary.
The painting portrays a fishwife (i.e. a woman who sells fish), in a dignified and serene manner, which contrasts with the common perception of fishwives as noisy and unsubtle. In the scene, she is depicted cleaning her merchandise in a traditional market stall, readying it for sale. This representation aligns with the Dutch artistic trend of the time, which favored scenes of everyday life and often included subjects like fish and markets due to their significance in the European diet. Salmon, in particular, was a staple food that was accessible even to the less affluent.
Ostade’s work not only provides a realistic view of a Haarlem market scene but also aims to present the fishwife as a symbol of hard work and societal contribution, embodying virtue. The painting is a fine art print and is classified as a work by an old master from the Netherlands, where Ostade held professions as a painter, engraver, and artist.