Connect with us

DailyArtMagazine.com – Art History Stories

Fun And Joy In Jan Steen Paintings

Jan Steen, Baker Oostwaert and his wife,1658, detail, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands


Fun And Joy In Jan Steen Paintings

Hello, dear readers of DAM! In the last few weeks I’ve had bad days, and I’m very happy to be back. To prove to you how happy I am, how about talking about happiness again? Today I want to introduce Jan Steen to you, and I am sure you will feel the joy of this painter!

If you are a frequent reader here, you may have seen our other article about happiness (read it if you haven’t yet). And now let’s get down to business: Jan Havickszoon Steen was born in Leiden in 1626. You must remember that Leiden was home to another famous painter Rembrandt Van Rijn. It seems that the water of Leiden had some magical qualities… Steen was born into a family who ran a tavern and because of that they were very rich which allowed Steen to begin his apprenticeship in painting early and draw his inspiration for painting from many jolly events taking place in the tavern…

Jan Steen, Self- Portrait Playing the Lute, c. 1663 – 1665, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain

The focus of Steen’s work is a joy. Take, for example, this self-portrait of 1663: I wonder what kind of song can make a musician so excited. Look at the artist’s smile, which is not only visible on the lips, but also in the eyes. Steen’s technique is excellent and it is likely that he had received his lessons from masters of German painting. Nevertheless, he developed his personal and very particular style.

Jan Steen, Couple in a Bedroom, 1670, Bredius Museum, Den Haag, Netherlands

This painting above is my favorite of Steen. Very dynamic and fun, and the pinch of humor in it is remarkable. Not even the pet was left out of the scene, which like many of Steen’s paintings portrays a cheerful couple (unlike other period painters who portrayed more sober and serious couples).

Please take a look at the man’s face in the painting. Would you dare say that this man does not think he is in the best of all possible worlds?

Jan Steen Paintings

Jan Steen, Baker Oostwaert and his wife, 1658, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Another painting that seems to me very happy is the portrait of the baker Oostwaert and his wife. They happily display the freshly baked bread rolls while a little boy plays a trumpet. The baker’s smile is very contagious and who knows how proud he was, after all, to be portrayed by a famous painter.

Jan Steen, The Merry Family, 1668, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Steen preferred to portray everyday scenes, which belong to the style of so-called genre painting as well as portraits. Take, for example, this group portrait of the Merry family. Everyone is excited, they play musical instruments and sing while they eat and drink. It seems that all that really matters is having fun. And if there is a little mess in the house? Who cares, the party is on!

Jan Steen, The crowned orator, c.1650-1675, Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany

The crowned orator is another funny painting. The men gather around the eldest (after whom the painting is named) to listen to him read. The content of the letter seems interesting. In Steen’s paintings, German influence is evident in the composition and choice of colors.

Jan Steen, The Double Game, c. 1660-1679, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

In 1654, a few years after working in his father-in-law’s guild, Steen opened his own brewery. He lived in many cities but after his wife’s death in 1670, he returned to Leiden, where he stayed until his death, nine years later.  And if you want to know more about this painter, read here.

Find out more:


If you want to read more about Dutch genre painting, check out:

Someone who believes, through reading and intuition, that the history of art is the true history of humanity. In love with Renaissance art and a huge fan of the Impressionists.


More in Baroque

  • Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Young Boys Playing Dice, 1665-1670, Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany. Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Young Boys Playing Dice, 1665-1670, Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany.

    Art Travels

    Dark Shadows of Seville in Murillo’s Paintings


    Apart from fulfilling commissions for churches and noblemen’s mansions, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo painted genre scenes depicting poor children in their daily tasks. Those paintings, mostly acquired by a foreign clientele, reflect the bitter reality of poverty and exclusion in the 17th century Seville. Now that the...

  • Baroque

    Elisabetta Sirani: The Glory of the Female Sex


    Elisabetta Sirani (1638–1665) was born in Bologna, a progressive city with a liberal attitude towards educating women. She was a pioneering female artist who established an academy for other women aspiring to become painters. Sirani was only 27 when she died at the peak of her...

  • Animals

    Painting of the Week: Jan Asselijn, Threatened Swan


    Swans are normally characterized as graceful birds. They are magnificent and majestic. However, Jan Asselijn displays another side of these elegant birds. In Threatened Swan, we witness the fierce, protective, and powerful nature of motherhood. Yet, we are witnessing something more than just a wildlife scene....

  • Baroque

    Painting of the Week: Rembrandt van Rijn, Flora


    Rembrandt painted his wife Saskia van Uylenburgh as Flora, goddess of spring and flowers, three times during their relatively short but meaningful marriage. He created the first portrait shortly after the wedding. It shows his beloved wife in all her beauty and glory, underlined by the...

  • Baroque

    18th Century Aristocratic Marriage Like in the Bridgerton Series


    Three Ladies Adorning a Term of Hymen is a huge triple portrait of the Montgomery sisters by Sir Joshua Reynolds. It thematizes aristocratic marriage and uses classical elements to allegorize the portrait. Exactly this type of marriage is represented in the Bridgerton Netflix series. The first...

To Top