Jan Steen
The Children’s Meal, c. 1665
Oil on panel, 82 x 70,5 cm.
Inventory number: 0054NMK
Bestowed, 1908


The Dutch call a disorderly home such as this a “Jan Steen household”. The children are presumably the artist’s own, and their questionable behaviour should serve as a warning against waste of God’s gifts. The work is humorous, a parody of a proper and honest family life. There is a great richness in detail in the foreground and middleground, while the wall in the background is stark, adorned only with a single, bare nail. In addition to the painterly qualities of the work, the unruly atmosphere is a good example of the everyday intimacy reproduced in Dutch art. Johannes Hage was not a conformist in his views on family, children and relationships, and in that sense, the painting has resounded well with his overall view on life.


Jan Steen (1626–1679)
Jan Steen was a student of the painter Jan van Goyen and one of the most important contributors to the characteristic folk and genre painting that arose in the Netherlands in the 1600s. The core of his work consists of images with scenes from everyday life in the Dutch lower and middle classes, often lively, disorderly tavern scenes and tumultuous family gatherings. Jan Steen had his subjects right at hand, as he occasionally worked as an innkeeper. The narrative and theatrical aspect as well as a humorous tone with an underlying moral point are traits that pervade the artist’s oeuvre.

Translator: Jennifer Russell

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