The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
The Harpsichord Lesson
  • Jan Steen (1626 - 1679)
  • The Harpsichord Lesson
  • Netherlands
  • 1660 - 1669
  • Painting
  • Oil on oak panel
  • Image size: 37.4 x 48.4 cm
  • Signature: 'J STEEM' (sic) in imitation carved letters
  • P154
  • East Galleries II
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • The Harpsichord Lesson shows Jan Steen's later, humorous response to the small, delicately-painted pictures of the mid to late 1650s by Ter Borch and Frans van Mieris, which often deal with the rituals of courtship. Here, a mismatched pair of lovers forms the subject: an old fool, in outmoded dress, masquerades as the music teacher of a prim young girl, seated at a harpsichord. The large key hanging prominently in the centre of the picture is placed on a line above the hand of the old man, implying his desire. That, however, his advances go unnoticed is indicated by the painting above it. It shows Venus, the goddess of love, and Cupid, the god of erotic desire, both of whom are asleep.