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Jan Steen, The Effects of Intemperance

Key facts
Full title The Effects of Intemperance
Artist Jan Steen
Artist dates 1626 - 1679
Date made about 1663-5
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 76 × 106.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1977
Inventory number NG6442
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Effects of Intemperance
Jan Steen

Propriety, order and temperance were important virtues in Dutch Calvinist society in the seventeenth century. People admired hard work and disapproved of wantonness. But they also liked a good laugh and the way that Jan Steen could make moralising entertaining.

Some of his jokes are immediately clear. We can see that this is a household where the children and servants are taking over. They are feeding their lunch to the cat, wine to a parrot and roses to the pig, while a small boy reaches into the purse of the sleeping woman. She is the mother of the household, responsible for the well-being of her family. Intoxicated with tobacco and wine, implies Steen, she has neglected her duties. As a result her children run riot, and in the garden beyond a man – perhaps her husband – seduces the young woman who is sitting in his lap.

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