Jan Steen
(Leiden 1626 – 1679)

Figures before an inn,
merry-making and playing a game of kolfspel

oil on panel
signed “JS (in compendium) teen” (lower right)
49.7 x 67.5 cm. (19.6 x 26.6 in.)
c. 1650

“One does not know what to admire more: the perfect drawing, the exquisite composition, the harmonious colour, or the funny expression of character. As character painter, Jan Steen has not been surpassed by anyone.”

Abraham Bredius, “Jan Steen”, Elsevier Illustrated Magazine, 1907, p. 14.

Jan Steen was born in Leiden, yet his exact date of birth is not known. He enrolled at the University of Leiden at the age of 20 in 1646, setting his birth date at around 1625/1626. Two years later he was recorded as one of the founders of the Saint Luke’s Guild of Leiden. It is said Steen studied with Jan van Goyen (1596-1656) in the Hague, Nicolaes Knüpfer (1603-1655) in Utrecht and Adriaen van Ostade (1610-1685) in Haarlem (Wheelock, 1995, p. 1504).

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Jan Steen painted the present picture in the first quarter of the 1650s when he was living in The Hague and had just married the daughter of Jan Van Goyen. Steen came from a family of brewers, and briefly was one himself in Delft, so this subject matter no doubt felt natural to him (“Jan Steen”, n.d., para. 4). In this painting, the landscape is the more dominant element and the smaller figures are typical of Steen’s early career, as well as a sophistication and overall mood that is more in line with his later work. From 1656 to 1660, Steen lived in a small town near Leiden and his increased interest in still life details and careful finish of his paintings suggest he was in contact with the work of the Leiden fijnschilders, a group of painters who sought to reproduce reality in outstanding, minute detail, such as Gerard Dou (1613-1675) and Frans van Mieris (1635-1681). In 1661 he moved to Haarlem and in his 9 years there he created his largest, most complex scenes containing emblems, proverbs and other moralising messages. In 1670 he moved back to Leiden, where he was elected deken of the Leiden guild in 1674. He stayed in Leiden until his death in 1679 (Wheelock, 1995, p. 1504-05).

Sources
Jan Steen. (n.d.). Retrieved 24 June 2020 from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jan-Havickszoon-Steen.
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1995.

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Prof. Dr. Jan Bleuland (1756-1838), Utrecht;
his deceased sale; Lamme, Utrecht, 6 May 1839, lot 309;
Gerard Munnicks van Cleeff (d. 1860), Utrecht, by 1860;
his deceased sale; Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 4 April 1864, lot 88;
with D. Katz, Dieren;
Mrs. A. Ongering-Schwarte (1890-1967), by 1958;
by whom sold, Sotheby’s, London, 26 March 1969, lot 81, for £20,000 to Tan Bunzl;
Miss A. C. Innes, London;
her deceased sale [Sold by order of the Executors], Christie’s, London, 7 July 1972, lot 26, for 30,000 Guineas to Jermyn;
Mrs. George F. Getty II, by whom sold (b. 1930/1931);
The Property of Mrs. George F. Getty II; Christie’s, London, 28 November 1975, lot 87;
private collection, New York, until sold;
anonymous sale [Property of a Private Collection]; Sotheby’s, New York, 12 January 1979, lot 126;
with Richard Green, London by 1980;
private collection, by the early 1980s;
The Klesch Collection.

Haarlem, Frans Hals Museum, 1922.
St. Louis, Art Museum, on loan 1973-5.

T. van Westrheene, Jan Steen: Étude Sur L’Art En Hollande, The Hague, 1856, nos. 44 & 368.
C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century, Based on the Work of John Smith, vol. I, London, 1907, p. 198, no. 742.
K. Braun, Alle tot nu bekende schilderijen van Jan Steen, Rotterdam, 1980, p. 90, no. 31, reproduced p. 91.

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