The painting was first mentioned in the first quarter of the 18th century, when Altenlack Mansion, where the work was housed, was owned by the Carniolan aristocratic family Erberg. The painting was listed in the probate inventory of Johann Adam Erberg in 1721 and in the probate inventory of his son, Wolf Adam Erberg, in 1754. The merchant Matevž Demšar became the owner of the castle in 1755, and one of his female descendants married Friderik Strahl. Their heir Edvard Strahl was a passionate art collector and enriched Altenlack's already substantial collection, and so did Edvard's son, Karel Strahl, the last lord of Altenlack, who compiled a detailed inventory of the mansion's collection.
The Pedlar was bought by the National Museum of Slovenia in 1930, as recorded in the documentation; in 1946, it was planned to move the painting to the National Gallery of Slovenia, but instead the work disappeared. In the Zbornik za umetnostno zgodovino (Art History Journal) of 2003, Boštjan Mihelj drew attention to the lost painting. Serendipitously, the work was rediscovered in Christie's London auction catalogue in 2006. The National Gallery of Slovenia acquired the painting in October 2013.
The depiction of a peasant chore brings the painting close to a realistic genre image of a simple human being. The main focus is on the male figure with a large back-basket. The summarized landscape background serves as scenery flats. The realistic and precise modelling of the serious face, hands and clothes, the man's physiognomy and the positioning and posture of the sitting figure, painted in warm colours and in subdued light in front of the dark background, closely relate this painting to the Boy with a Turkey. The latter painting was listed in the probate inventory of Marx Anton II Billichgrätz as Almanach's work already in 1731 and is, together with the two Cardplayers, the reference work of the painter. Thus, The Pedlar can become one of the crucial paintings for future research. If the similarities with the rather reliably dated Almanach's works are taken into account, The Pedlar was painted in the third quarter of the 17th century, when this mysterious itinerant artist sojourned in the Slovenian lands.
7 November–4 December 2013
National Gallery of Slovenia