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After Jan Steen, An Itinerant Musician saluting Two Women in a Kitchen

Key facts
Full title An Itinerant Musician saluting Two Women in a Kitchen
Artist After Jan Steen
Artist dates 1626 - 1679
Date made probably about 1770
Medium and support Oil on paper
Dimensions 46 × 36.8 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Sir William H. Gregory, 1892
Inventory number NG1378
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
An Itinerant Musician saluting Two Women in a Kitchen
After Jan Steen

This grisaille work (painted in shades of black, white and grey) is a copy of a picture by Jan Steen known as ‘Old Wooer, Young Maid’. It’s a more appropriate title, emphasising that the man is probably making advances to the younger of the two women, who turns towards him.

The flute protruding from the man’s pocket suggests he is an itinerant musician, but it may also have phallic overtones. The discarded mussel shells on the floor may have been understood as suggestive of female sexuality. If not a brothel, the setting is certainly a tavern, and women drinking in such places would often have been involved in prostitution. But, as is typical in Steen’s pictures, there’s a high degree of amusement on the faces of those depicted.

The painting was probably made by (or for) Samuel de Wilde (1748–1832) in preparation for his print after Steen’s original.

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