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Merrymaking in a Tavern
  • Jan Steen (1626 - 1679)
  • Merrymaking in a Tavern
  • Netherlands
  • Date: probably 1674
  • Object Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 73.3 x 65.9 cm
  • Inv: P158
  • Location: East Galleries II
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Further Reading
  • The son of a brewer, in 1647 Jan Steen began his professional training as a painter. He is thought to have studied with Jan van Goyen and Adriaen van Ostade, whose low-life genre pictures greatly influenced his early works. Steen’s Merrymaking in a Tavern combines the Flemish tradition of low-life tavern scenes with the more elegant Dutch merry companies. The lively description of the domestic muddle of mothers, children, dancers, musicians and onlookers creates a boisterous scene. The lack of a central motif reinforces the work’s naturalistic appearance, yet the composition is carefully constructed around a group of selected incidents. A key hangs on the back wall of the tavern, suspended between a dancing girl and an older quarrelsome couple, as a warning of where such mayhem might lead. The variety of human life is depicted, with an old woman praying next to a young boy at a table, an amorous seated couple, a bagpipe player, a group of men drinking on the right and a mother, baby and crouching boy in the foreground. Each of these characters illustrates human conduct at different ages.