Seated in a carriage drawn by four horses, two ladies are taking a jaunt in the Flanders countryside. With its elegant design and retractable hood, this type of carriage - a ‘calèche’ - was the ultimate jaunting car of its time, customarily used by women in the warmer months. Here, the number of horses and the presence of a coachman and postilion indicate that the ladies are members of the affluent classes, probably the local petite bourgeoisie. Although most of his paintings tend to be peopled with a multitude of minor figures, Théobald Michau here devotes much of the picture to the landscape, which stretches far into the distance.

A native of Tournai, the painter began his training in Brussels with the landscape artist Lucas Achtschellinck (1626-1699). He became Master of the Guild of Brussels in 1698, and was later elected Member of the Guild of Antwerp. Théobald Michau’s abundant output comprises small ‘cabinet pieces’, often painted on copper, and the number of prints of his paintings attests to his success during his lifetime.

During this period, the public taste for small picturesque rural landscapes, in the style developed by Jan Brueghel de Velours (1568-1625) and David Teniers the Younger (1610-1690), remained very strong. Théobald Michau continued the tradition of this genre painting, relinquishing nonetheless the bold, vivid colours of the previous century for a chromatic range which was gentler, softer and subtler, characteristic of the 18th century.

H. D.

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