A Game of Ninepins

Artist or maker:
Hooch, Pieter de (b.1629, d.1684)
c 1665
dated stylistically
Place of production:
Amsterdam, Netherlands
oil on canvas
Type of object:
Accession number:


Pieter de Hooch's vision of courting couples playing skittles exists in several versions, of which this is the highest in quality and execution and the best preserved.

It was produced in Amsterdam shortly after the artist's move to the city from Delft. It is a good example of de Hooch's depiction of elegant country house gardens which replaced the simple Delft courtyards in his earlier depictions of enclosed exterior spaces. The villa is similar to the many country houses that were built by wealthy families along the rivers Amstel and Vecht. De Hooch's scene recalls contemporary celebrations of ordered and abundant gardens in prints, paintings and poetry.

The theme of skittle playing relates to 'Garden of Love' and 'Game of Love' imagery found in both high art and popular print culture. The composition relates to a print found in Peter Rollos' book 'Euterpae suboles', 1630s, which was reproduced as 'Le Centre de l'Amour' in the 1680s. A statue of Cupid highlights the theme of Love in this painting. The woman looking out at the viewer is the protagonist in this sport of Love. Women were often given leading roles in 'Garden of Love' iconography and this work hints at potential pairings and narratives. The central couple are watched by a man in plainer clothes - his hat in hand as though wishing to enter the conversation. The woman with her back to us watches another man about to bowl whose performance is also scrutinised by a male companion.The effects of evening light are painted with immersive naturalism, while the flowers on the right have an emblematic quality reminiscent of earlier depictions of enclosed gardens in religious paintings.

Other versions of this work can be found in the City Art Museum, St Louis (20:1929), and the Cincinnati Art Museum (1950.19). Several copies have passed through sales in London and Amsterdam.

Juliet Carey and Phillippa Plock, 2016

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
698 x 622
660 x 612 - sight
Signature & date:
signed, lower right on vase, 'OOCH' a later edition: P. D. H[OOCH]
on verso, recording exhibition at Manchester 1857


George Morant sale, by Phillips, 19 May 1832, lot no. 113, bought for 210 guineas; possibly in a private collection, Amsterdam according to Bürger; acquired by John Walter at Bearwood before 1856 where seen by Waagen; acquired by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (b.1839, d.1898) from Walter in or soon after 1894; inherited by his sister Alice de Rothschild (b.1847, d.1922); inherited by her great-nephew James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); bequeathed to Waddesdon The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1957.
Exhibition history:
Manchester, 1857, no. 953;

British Institute, London, 1861, no. 77

Royal Academy, London, 1894, no. 80, lent by John Walter

Royal Academy, London, 1938, no. 279
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Bequest of James de Rothschild, 1957



John Smith; A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters; 9 vols; London; Smith and Son; 1829-1842; vol. 4, pp. 237-38, no. 59
Willem Bürger; Trésors d'Art exposés à Manchester en 1857; Paris; Jules Renouard et Cie; 1857; p. 318
Gustav Friedrich Waagen; Galleries and cabinets of art (a supplemental volume to The Treasures of Art in Great Britain); London; John Murray; 1857; p. 294
Cornelis Hofstede de Groot; A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. Vols 1-4 [1907-1927]; Bishops Stortford; Chadwick Healey; 1976; vol. 1, pp. 562-53, no. 308
Christopher White, Dutch and Flemish Paintings at Waddesdon Manor, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 54, August 1959, 67-74; p. 70, fig. 3
Sir Francis Watson, The Art Collections at Waddesdon Manor I: The Paintings, Apollo, 69, June 1959, 172-182; p. 181, fig. 15
Ellis Waterhouse, Anthony Blunt; Paintings: The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor; Fribourg; Office du Livre, The National Trust; 1967; pp. 148-151, cat. no. 62
Elise Goodman, The Sources of Pieter de Hooch's "The Game of Skittles", Studies in Iconography, 5, 1979, 147-158; p. 147, fig. 1
Peter Sutton; Pieter de Hooch: Complete Edition with a Catalogue Raisonné; Oxford; Phaidon Press; 1980; p. 94, no. 60a, fig. 64; as 'Skittle Players in a Garden', c 1665
Wayne Franits; Pieter de Hooch: A Woman Preparing Bread and Butter for a Boy; Los Angeles; Getty Publications; 2006; p. 29, fig. 27
Eric de Jong; Aardse Paradijzen. De tuin in de Nederlandse Kunst. 15de - 18de eeuw; Frans Halsmuseum and Noordbrabants Museum te's-Hertogenbosch , 1996; Frans Halsmuseum and Rijksmuseum Twenthe te Enschede, 1999; Ghent; Snoeck Ducaju and Zoon; 1996-1999; vol. 1, p. 86, fig. 57b.
Peter Sutton; Pieter de Hooch 1629 - 1684; Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, 3 September - 15 November 1998; Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, 17 December 1998 - 27 February 1999; New Haven; Yale University Press; 1998; p. 51, fig. 50
Oliver Garnett; Westbury Court Garden; London; The National Trust; 2007; p. 13
Treasures from The National Trust; London; The National Trust; 2007; p. 243

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