Pieter van Laer, a native from Haarlem, went to Italy in 1625, presumably with his brother Roeland. He became member of the Bentvueghels, and was known as ‘Il Bamboccio’, meaning ‘little clumsy one’ or ‘rag doll’, as he was crippled or deformed in some way.
Van Laer was the first in Rome to paint small canvases with small figures showing scenes of everyday life in the streets of Rome or in the countryside. He painted in a naturalistic manner with a sharp eye for detail and colour. This new genre was called ‘Bambocciate’, after Van Laer's Bentname. His works became a model for his followers, among which Jan Miel and the Italian Michelangelo Cerquozzi. They were known as Bamboccianti.
In 1639 Van Laer went back to Amsterdam, preceded by the fame he had acquired in Italy. In 1642 he returned south, but never arrived in Italy. His death is a mystery. (SD)