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Jan Steen, Two Men and a Young Woman making Music on a Terrace

Key facts
Full title Two Men and a Young Woman making Music on a Terrace
Artist Jan Steen
Artist dates 1626 - 1679
Date made about 1670-5
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 43.8 × 60.7 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1894
Inventory number NG1421
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Two Men and a Young Woman making Music on a Terrace
Jan Steen

This scene of two men and a woman making music is not a representation of everyday life. Positioned on a wide terrace overlooking an impressive formal garden, the figures don’t quite seem to belong in their surroundings. The men sit on either side of the singing woman, one holding a glass of wine and the other tuning a lute. They both wear old-fashioned costumes with outdated collars and hats that were used on the comic stage of Steen’s time.

While the lutenist is concentrating on his instrument, the older man is clearly more interested in the woman, leaning over and staring at her. The contemporary viewer would have recognised her admirer as a popular stock character known from plays: the old lecher who is hoping for the affection of a woman half his age. The woman’s body language makes it clear that his feelings won’t be reciprocated.

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