Overview

Jan Steen’s paintings encompass a wide range of moods and subjects, from intimate scenes of a family saying grace before a meal to festive village celebrations, yet all of his paintings elicit a warm reaction to the lives of ordinary people. All five senses are represented in this work in which two young musicians play for a dancing couple while other people in the vine-covered arbor flirt, eat, drink, or smoke, and children amuse themselves with their toys. The grinning figure on the left who caresses the chin of the woman drinking from an elegant wine glass is none other than Steen himself. Despite the apparent frivolity of the scene, Steen used emblematic references such as cut flowers, broken eggshells, and soap bubbles to warn the viewer about the transience of sensual pleasures.

Many of Steen’s greatest paintings are large, complex scenes of families and merrymakers containing witty evocations of proverbs, emblems, or other moralizing messages. His pictures, which are marked by a sophisticated use of contemporary literature and popular theater, often depict characters from both the Italian commedia dell’arte and the native Dutch rederijkerskamers (rhetoricians’ chambers). Steen, one of the most versatile and prolific Dutch painters of the seventeenth century, was apparently less adept in his other profession as a brewer and innkeeper because, legend has it, he drank too much of his own inventory and spent more money than he earned. The relative chaos and merry mood of his paintings gave rise to the Dutch saying "to run a household like Jan Steen," meaning to have a disorderly house.

Inscription

lower left, JS in ligature: JSteen. 1663

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Possibly (sale, The Hague, 24 April 1737, no. 7). probably Graf van Hogendorp; probably (his sale, The Hague, 27 July 1751, no. 6).[1] Pieter Bisschop [c. 1690-1758] and Jan Bisschop [1680-1771], Rotterdam, by 1752; purchased 1771 with the Bisschop collection by Adrian Hope [1709-1781] and his nephew, John Hope [1737-1784], Amsterdam; by inheritance after Adrian's death to John, Amsterdam and The Hague; by inheritance to his sons, Thomas Hope [1769-1831], Adrian Elias Hope [1772-1834], and Henry Philip Hope [1774-1839], Bosbeek House, near Heemstede, and, as of 1794, London, where the collection was in possession of John's cousin, Henry Hope [c. 1739-1811], London; by inheritance 1811 solely to Henry Philip, Amsterdam and London, but in possession of his brother, Thomas, London; by inheritance 1839 to Thomas' son, Henry Thomas Hope [1808-1862], London; by inheritance to his wife, née Adèle Bichat [d. 1884], London; by inheritance to her grandson, Henry Francis Hope Pelham-Clinton-Hope, 8th duke of Newcastle-under-Lyme [1866-1941], London; (P. & D. Colnaghi & Co. and Charles Wertheimer, London), 1898-1901; (Thos. Agnew & Sons, Ltd., London); sold 1901 to Peter A.B. Widener, Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park; gift 1942 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1818
British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, London, 1818, no. 138, as Merrymaking.
1849
British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, London, 1849, no. 84, as A Merrymaking.
1866
Possibly British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, London, 1866, no. 33, as A Dinner Party.
1881
Exhibition of of Works by the Old Masters, and by Deceased Masters of the British School. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1881, no. 124, as A Village Fête.
1891
The Hope Collection of Pictures of the Dutch and Flemish Schools, The South Kensington Museum, London, 1891-1898, no. 25.
1909
The Hudson-Fulton Celebration, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1909, no. 126.
1925
Loan Exhibition of Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century, Detroit Institute of Arts, 1925, no. 26.
1990
Great Dutch Paintings from America, Mauritshuis, The Hague; The Fine Arts Musuems of San Francisco, M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, 1990-1991, no. 59, color repro., as Dancing Couple at an Inn.
1996
Jan Steen: Painter and Storyteller, National Gallery of Washington, D.C.; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1996-1997, no. 20, repro.
2003
Loan to display with permanent collection, The National Gallery, London, 2003-2004.

Bibliography

1771
Kabinet van schilderijen, berustende, onder den heere Jan Bisschop te Rotterdam. Rotterdam, 1771: 10.
1797
Reynolds, Sir Joshua. "A Journey to Flanders and Holland, in the Year MDCCLXXXI." In The Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Knt. Late President of the Royal Academy. 2 vols. Edited by Edmond Malone. London, 1797: 2:77.
1818
British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom. Catalogue of pictures of the Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, and French schools. Exh. cat. British Institution. London, 1818: no. 138.
1824
British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom. An Account of All the Pictures Exhibited in the Rooms of the British Institution, from 1813 to 1823, Belonging to the Nobility and Gentry of England: with Remarks, Critical and Explanatory. London, 1824: 172, no. 7 or 9.
1824
Westmacott, C. M. British Galleries of Painting and Sculpture: Comprising a General Historical and Critical Catalogue with Separate Notices of Every Work of Fine Art in Principal Collections. London, 1824: 233.
1829
Smith, John. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters. 9 vols. London, 1829-1842: 4(1833):50, no. 150.
1838
Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Works of Art and Artists in England. 3 vols. Translated by H. E. Lloyd. London, 1838: 2:334.
1849
British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom. A catalogue of the works of British artists placed in the gallery of the British institution. Exh. cat. British Institution, London, 1849: no. 84.
1854
Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Treasures of Art in Great Britain: Being an Account of the Chief Collections of Paintings, Drawings, Sculptures, Illuminated Mss.. 3 vols. Translated by Elizabeth Rigby Eastlake. London, 1854: 2:118.
1856
Westrheene Wz., Tobias van. Jan Steen: Étude sur l'art en Hollande. The Hague, 1856: 119-120, no. 89.
1866
British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom. Catalogue of pictures by Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, Franch, and English masters. Exh. cat. British Institution. London, 1866: 9, no. 33.
1881
Royal Academy of Arts. Exhibition of of Works by the Old Masters, and by Deceased Masters of the British School. Winter Exhibition. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1881: no. 124.
1881
Royal Academy of Arts. Exhibition of Works by The Old Masters and by Deceased Masters of the British School...Winter Exhibition. Exh. cat. Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1881: no. 124.
1885
Catalogue of Paintings Forming the Collection of P. A. B. Widener, Ashbourne, near Philadelphia. 2 vols. Paris, 1885-1900: 2(1900):165.
1891
South Kensington Museum. A catalogue of pictures of the Dutch and Flemish schools lent to the South Kensington Museum by Lord Francis Pelham Clinton-Hope. (Exh. cat. South Kensington Museum). London, 1891: no. 25.
1891
South Kensington Museum. A catalogue of pictures of the Dutch and Flemish schools lent to the South Kensington Museum by Lord Francis Pelham Clinton-Hope. Exh. cat. South Kensington Museum. London, 1891: no. 25.
1898
South Kensington Museum. The Hope Collection of Pictures of the Dutch and Flemish Schools with Descriptions Reprinted from the Catalogue Published in 1891 by the Science and Art Department of the South Kensington Museum. London, 1898: no. 25, repro.
1907
Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. 8 vols. Translated by Edward G. Hawke. London, 1907-1927: 1(1907):171-172, no. 655.
1907
Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts. 10 vols. Esslingen and Paris, 1907-1928: 1(1907):159, no. 655.
1907
Thieme, Ulrich, and Felix Becker. Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart. 37 vols. Leipzig, 1907-1950: 31(1937): 512.
1909
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Catalogue of a collection of paintings by Dutch masters of the seventeenth century. The Hudson-Fulton Celebration 1. Exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1909: xxvii, 127, no. 126, repro., 157, 162.
1910
Breck, Joseph. "Hollandsche kunst op de Hudson-Fulton tentoonstelling te New York." Onze Kunst 17 (February 1910): 44.
1910
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. "Die Ausstellung holländischer Gemälde in New York." Monatshefte für Kunstwissenschaft 3 (1910): 10.
1910
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Catalogue of a Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Old Dutch Masters Held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Connection with the Hudson-Fulton Celebration. New York, 1910: 15, repro. 426, 427, no. 126.
1910
Wiersum, E. "Het schilderijen-kabinet van Jan Bisschop te Rotterdam." Oud Holland 28 (Summer 1910): 171.
1913
Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis, and Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Pictures in the collection of P. A. B. Widener at Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania: Early German, Dutch & Flemish Schools. Philadelphia, 1913: unpaginated, repro.
1923
Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1923: unpaginated, repro.
1925
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Loan Exhibition of Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. Exh. cat. Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1925: no. 26.
1925
Washburn Freund, F. E. "Eine Ausstellung niederländischer Malerei in Detroit." Der Cicerone 17 (1925): 463.
1931
Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1931: 220, repro.
1938
Waldmann, Emil. "Die Sammlung Widener." Pantheon 22 (November 1938): 336, 338.
1948
National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. Washington, 1948: 53, repro.
1954
Martin, Wilhelm. Jan Steen. Amsterdam, 1954: 79.
1957
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 108.
1958
Domela Nieuwenhuis, Peder Niels Hjalmar, and Anton van Duinkerken. Jan Steen. Exh. cat. Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague, 1958: no. 18.
1959
National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. Reprint. Washington, DC, 1959: 53, repro.
1960
Baird, Thomas P. Dutch Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art 7. Washington, 1960: 28, color repro.
1960
The National Gallery of Art and Its Collections. Foreword by Perry B. Cott and notes by Otto Stelzer. National Gallery of Art, Washington (undated, 1960s): 25.
1961
Bille, Clara. De Tempel der Kunst of Het Kabinet van den Heer Braamcamp. 2 vols. Amsterdam, 1961: 1:105.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 35, 315, repro., 344.
1964
Constable, W. G. Art Collecting in the United States of America: An Outline of a History. London, 1964: 117.
1965
National Gallery of Art. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1965: 124.
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1: 242, color repro.
1968
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 111, repro.
1974
Buist, Marten G. At Spes Non Fracta: Hope & Co. 1770-1815: Merchant Bankers and Diplomats at Work. The Hague, 1974: 492.
1975
National Gallery of Art. European paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Washington, 1975: 332, repro.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 291, no. 385, color repro.
1977
Vries, Lyckle de. "Jan Steen, 'de kluchtschilder'." Ph.D. dissertation, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, 1977: 53-54, 162, no. 97.
1978
King, Marian. Adventures in Art: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1978: 59, pl. 33.
1980
Braun, Karel. Alle tot nu toe bekende schilderijen van Jan Steen. Rotterdam, 1980: 110-111, no. 180, repro.
1981
Niemeijer, J. W. "De kunstverzameling van John Hope (1737–1784)." Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 32 (1981): 197, no. 216.
1984
Sutton, Peter C. Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting. Edited by Jane Iandola Watkins. Exh. cat. Philadelphia Museum of Art; Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin; Royal Academy of Arts, London. Philadelphia, 1984: 312, fig. 2.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 291, no. 379, color repro.
1984
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1984: 6, 34-35, color repro.
1985
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 381, repro.
1986
Ford, Terrence, compiler and ed. Inventory of Music Iconography, no. 1. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York 1986: 6, no. 128.
1986
Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids and Kampen, 1986: 309, repro. 461.
1990
Broos, Ben P. J., ed. Great Dutch Paintings from America. Exh. cat. Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The Hague and Zwolle, 1990: 42, 419-423, no. 59, color repro. 421.
1990
Buijsen, Edwin. "De kunst van het verzamelen: De verzamelaar centraal op Haags symposium." Tableau 13 (December 1990): 64-66, fig. 2.
1990
Schneider, Cynthia P. Rembrandt’s Landscapes: Drawings and Prints. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Boston, 1990: 105-106, fig. 90.
1991
Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 195, color repro.
1992
National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 135, repro.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 364-369, color repro. 365.
1996
Chapman, H. Perry, Wouter Th. Kloek, and Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr. Jan Steen, painter and storyteller. Edited by Guido Jansen. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Washington, 1996: no. 20, repro.
1996
Hertel, Christiane. Vermeer: Reception and Interpretation. Cambridge, 1996: 24, fig. 6.
1997
Palmer, Michael, and E. Melanie Gifford. "Jan Steen's Painting Practice: The Dancing Couple in the Context of the Artist's Career." Studies in the History of Art 57 (1997): 127-155, repro. no. 1.
1997
Westermann, Mariët. The amusements of Jan Steen: comic painting in the seventeenth century. Studies in Netherlandish art and cultural history 1. Zwolle, 1997: 221-223, fig. 128.
2003
Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Treasures of Art in Great Britain. Translated by Elizabeth Rigby Eastlake. Facsimile edition of London 1854. London, 2003: 2:118.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 211, no. 168, color repro.
2005
Kloek, Wouter Th. Jan Steen (1626-1679). Rijksmuseum dossiers. Zwolle, 2005: 55-57, fig. 50.
2007
Sotheby's. "Old Master Paintings Evening Sale." London, 4 July 2007: no. 36, 114-119, figs. 1-2.

Conservation Notes

The medium-weight, plain-weave fabric support is loosely woven. It has been lined with the tacking margins trimmed, and broad cusping is visible at top and bottom. A light-colored or white ground was applied smoothly and thinly overall. A creamy pink-colored underpainting of thick, rich paste paint was applied in broad striated strokes to the areas of the sky and floor, with reserves left for the dancing couple, barrel, trellis, musicians, and seated foreground figures. The poultry vendor and trio behind the fence were executed over the underpaint layer.

Paint was applied in thin, opaque layers of rich paste blended wet-into-wet with lively brushwork. The X-radiographs show the underpainted areas and several artist’s changes. The dancing man originally wore a smaller collar and was portrayed hatless with an outstretched proper left arm. When the arm was lowered to its present position he held the hat in his hand. The opened door was added over the sky, and changes were made in the hat of the man slouched against it. The church steeple was taller and the poultry vendor’s raised left hand had a tall glass in it. Infrared reflectography also showed minor changes to the contours and profiles of the other figures. [1]

Small losses are found between the barrel and the dancing man, to the left of the poultry vendor, in the serving maid at the far left, and along the edges. Slight abrasion is present overall. The blue skirt of the woman at far left and the bricks above her were unfinished. The painting was treated in 1930 and again in 1944–1945. During the latter treatment, the painting was relined and discolored varnish and inpainting were removed.

 

[1] Infrared reflectography was performed with a Hamamatsu c/1000–03 vidicon camera fitted with a lead sulphide tube and a Kodak Wratten 87A filter.

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