Adriaen van Ostade executed several works using the same composition and showing men in an identical setting, in three-quarter profile, sitting at a table generally covered with an opulent Oriental rug, absorbed in their studies.
This has enabled us to group them into two main categories: men of the law and scientists. The title under which the Dutuit painting was listed upon its entrance to the Petit Palais, which we have kept, does not make it clear what the profession of the figure is, or the exact nature of the liquid he is examining.
He would appear to be a doctor absorbed in one of the activities most commonly depicted to show a diagnosis being established: the examination of a bottle of urine. Costume, instruments and botany books are traditional in this type of representation, which is often found in paintings attributed to many other 17th century Dutch artists, and the various versions attributed to Van Ostade are simply variants of the Dutuit painting.
The refined technique of this work, attention to detail and meticulous brushstrokes are representative of the evolution of Van Ostade’s art in the 1660’s.