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A Young Woman playing a Harpsichord to a Young Man
Jan Steen

In contrast to Steen's characteristic scenes of dissolute households and festive abandon, this painting shows an interior within a stone arch in the manner of Dou and the Leiden 'fijnschilders' (Fine Painters). A girl playing the virginals, or as here, a harpsichord, was one of the most popular subjects with Dutch 17th-century painters, and as in Metsu's roughly contemporary painting, 'A Man and a Woman seated by a Virginal' in the National Gallery, the instrument is inscribed with popular quotations from the Bible. The inscription reads: ACTA VIRUM / PROBANT (actions prove the man), which may be a witty and ironic comment on this scene of rather passive flirtation. On the inner side of the instrument one can read: 'Soli Deo Gloria' (Glory to God alone).

The picture was probably painted in 1659.

Key facts
Artist Jan Steen
Artist dates 1626 - 1679
Full title A Young Woman playing a Harpsichord to a Young Man
Date made probably 1659
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 42.3 x 33 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated and inscribed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1871
Inventory number NG856
Location in Gallery Room 16
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