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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