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Jan Havicksz. Steen

The Interior of an Inn with a Couple dancing to a Fiddle and Peasants eating, drinking and making Merry.

Jan Havicksz. Steen

Signed, lower right: JS (in ligature)teen
On canvas, 41½ x 59 ins. (105.4 x 149.9 cm)



Marinus de Jeude, The Hague
His sale, The Hague, 18 April 1735, lot 24, for 130 florins
Anon. sale, The Hague, 24 April 1737, lot 7, for 140 florins
Anon. sale, The Hague, 20 June 1810, bought Yperen
Héris, Brussels
His sale, Paris, Bonnefons de Lavialle, 25-26 March 1841, lot 34, for 2800 Francs
Lemaître, Paris
His sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 5 March, 1874, lot 41, (as signed and dated 1677)
Otto Adam, Berlin, by 1906
Emil Goldschmidt, Frankfurt am Main
His sale, Berlin, Lepke’s, 27 April 1909, lot 38 (as signed in monogram and dated 1677), for 20,000 Marks
Susskind, Amsterdam or Stockholm
With Schaeffer Gallery, New York
Swiss Art Market, 1934
Sale, London, Sotheby’s, 3 July 1963, lot 77 (as signed in monogram and dated 1677) for £2,800 to de Boer
With P. de Boer, Amsterdam, 1965
Ch. de Roy van Zuydewijn, Heemstede, by 1966
With K. & V. Waterman, Amsterdam, by 1985
Anon. sale, Sotheby’s, New York, 26 January 2006, lot 13
Private collection, New York, 2013


A. Bredius, Jan Steen, Amsterdam, 1927, p. 52, reproduced
C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné ….., vol. I, London 1908, p. 131, no. 488 (as signed and dated 1677)
E. Trautscholdt in Thieme-Becker’s Allgemeines Lexikon, Vol. XXXI, 1937, p. 512
K. Braun, Jan Steen, Rotterdam, 1980, p. 110, no. 176, reproduced p. 111 (as dateable circa 1662-66)
Tableau 8, no. 3, December 1985, reproduced on the cover


Delft, Prinsenhof, Oude Kunst-en Antiekbeurs, Summer, 1965


Although traditionally entitled “The Country Wedding”, this lively scene depicts the jollifications associated with a country fair, or kermis.  Through the window at the back of the room one glimpses a fairground with figures standing before traders’ booths, a sure sign that a kermis is taking place.  It was correctly described as such in Karel Braun’s 1980 monograph on the artist (i).  In the seventeenth century, every town and village of any importance had its annual kermis.  These fairs had their origins in religious festivals, but after the Reformation they became increasingly secularised.  The duration of a kermis was usually a week, but it could be two or even three weeks, as at Haarlem.  The May kermis held in The Hague was the most famous in the country and lasted for two weeks.

In this painting, a company of more than twenty men, women and children have retired to the village tavern to take their ease.  Seated at a long table in a spacious room, they eat, drink and make merry.  A tallyboard hanging on the back wall keeps a track of their orders. A fiddler, perhaps an itinerant musician, stands on a bench and entertains the revellers with a rousing melody.  Inspired by the music, a rustic-looking young fellow has taken to the dance floor, accompanied by a pretty young woman, dressed in her Sunday best.  Grasping her firmly by the hand, he sets off, kicking his feet energetically in time to the music, but she follows more demurely, with a bashful look on her face.  A man seated at the table turns to watch the dancing couple, but almost everyone else seems absorbed in their own activities.  A rowdy party at the back of the room has clearly had more than enough to drink.  At the left-hand end of the table, a rakish-looking fellow in a red beret makes advances to a young girl and a mother with a small child takes the weight off her feet, while taking some refreshment.  A well-dressed couple stands in the doorway on the right. Two children peer through the window at the back of the room.  The scene derives its charm from the festive mood and the lively interaction between the various members of the company.  

Steen’s many spirited depictions of peasant festivities follow a long tradition in Flemish art that originated in the sixteenth century with examples by Pieter Bruegel the Elder and was perpetuated in the following century by his sons and followers, including David Teniers the Younger.  In the Northern Netherlands representations of country fairs became popular with David Vinckboons and Adriaen van de Venne, both artists steeped in Flemish artistic traditions, and with Haarlem painters of peasant life such as Adriaen and Isack van Ostade and Jan Miense Moelenaer.  Through its many immigrants from late-sixteenth century Antwerp, Haarlem had the strongest ties of any Dutch artistic centre with the pictorial heritage of the Southern Netherlands, including its peasant repertoire.
Steen’s interest in kermis themes probably stems from his presumed apprenticeship with Adriaen van Ostade and was undoubtedly rekindled by his ten-year stay in Haarlem, from 1661-1670.  The present painting, which Braun dates to circa 1662-66 (ii), belongs to this highly productive period in Steen’s career.  The large size of this work is characteristic of the artist’s paintings on canvas from the Haarlem years, as is the free and expressive manner of painting.  The influence of Adriaen van Ostade’s multi-figured genre scenes is apparent here in the peasant types and in the palette, but as always Steen interprets the scene in his own inimitable way.  Pose, gesture and expression are all employed in a distinctly theatrical manner that brings vividly to life the characters in the scene and endows the painting with a strong narrative element.   


Jan Steen was born in Leiden, the eldest son of Havick Steen, a Catholic brewer.  The exact date of his birth is not known, but in 1646, when he enrolled in the university of Leiden, he declared himself to be 20 years old, which indicates he must have been born in 1625 or 1626.  No record of Steen’s apprenticeship has been preserved, so one must rely upon the information supplied by the artist’s eighteenth-century biographers.  Arnold Houbraken claimed that he was a pupil of Jan van Goyen, while Jacob Camp Weyerman stated that he studied successively with Nicholas Knüpfer in Utrecht, Adriaen van Ostade in Haarlem and Jan van Goyen in The Hague.  In March 1648, he became a member of the newly founded Guild of St. Luke in Leiden, indicating that by that date he was an independent master.  In September the following year, he married van Goyen’s daughter, Margriet, in The Hague and apparently remained in the city until the summer of 1654.  Although Steen’s father leased a brewery for his son in Delft between 1654 and 1657, there is little evidence that the artist spent much time there.  From 1656 to 1660, he was living in a small house in Warmond, near Leiden.  In 1661, the artist moved to Haarlem, where he joined the city’s Guild.  His wife, Margriet van Goyen, died in 1669, leaving six children.  In 1670, Steen inherited a house in Leiden from his father and returned the same year to live in his home town.  He rejoined the Leiden Guild of St. Luke and was elected headman in the following two years and dean in 1674.  In 1673, he was married for the second time to Maria Dircksdr. van Egmond, who had two children from a previous marriage.  A son was born of this union the following year.  The artist died in Leiden in 1679 and was buried in the family grave in Saint Peter’s on 3 February.  His wife survived him by eight years.


i)  See literature.
ii) However, in some of the early literature and auction sales, the picture has been mistakenly listed as dated 1677.   
As Braun points out, this confusion seems to have arisen because of a misreading of the letters “teen”, following the “JS” monogram, as the dated 1677.  

Jan Havicksz. Steen

1626 – Leiden – 1679

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