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Jan Steen, Peasants merry-making outside an Inn

Key facts
Full title Peasants merry-making outside an Inn, and a Seated Woman taking the Hand of an Old Man
Artist Jan Steen
Artist dates 1626 - 1679
Date made about 1645-50
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 24.3 × 20.3 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2557
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Peasants merry-making outside an Inn
Jan Steen

This was probably made when Steen was still in his early twenties and is one of many small paintings that he produced around this time. The theme of peasants drinking and dancing was a common one in Steen’s work, as was the central joke of an older man propositioning a younger woman. At least two of the other dancers seem to be turning round in amusement at his efforts.

The viewpoint here is an interesting one. We are slightly set back from the party and watch the merrymakers from the shadows behind a tree. They are oblivious not only to us, but also to the young boy who looks on. Steen may be making a gentle moral point about children learning from the excesses of their parents, or in this case, grandparents. On the trellis above hangs either a vine, or perhaps hops – either could be the ultimate fuel of the revelry.

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