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Jan Steen, The Interior of an Inn ('The Broken Eggs')

Key facts
Full title The Interior of an Inn ('The Broken Eggs')
Artist Jan Steen
Artist dates 1626 - 1679
Date made about 1665-70
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 43.3 × 38.1 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Sir Otto Beit, 1941
Inventory number NG5637
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Interior of an Inn ('The Broken Eggs')
Jan Steen

A young lad dips his finger into something delicious in the background of this raucous picture – probably something forbidden, since he hides what he’s doing. The actions and expressions of the men also imply the tasting of forbidden fruits denied them by the young woman. She shoves away the hand of the laughing man who lifts her skirt, while the figure in the red cap tamps tobacco into his pipe with a suggestive finger. Another man sniffs appreciatively at an open wine jug while gazing at the woman.

Steen has sprinkled this comic moral tale with symbols: the handle of the frying pan, a phallic symbol, pointing towards the three men; the mussels, a well-known aphrodisiac; the broken eggs, usually a sign of loss of virtue but in this case possibly representing the men’s ambitions towards the woman. But Steen mocks himself too: he’s portrayed himself here as the laughing man.

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