Jan Steen

Jenkins writes about the Dutch military attaché Colonel Van der Voort, “whose round florid clean-shaven face looked more that ever as if it peered out of a Jan Steen canvas. Van der Voort was in his most boisterous form, seeming to belong to some anachronistic genre picture, Boors at an Airport or The Airfield Kermesse, executed by one of the lesser Netherlands masters. [MP 159/154]

Rhetoriticians at a Window Jan Steen, 1661-1666 Oil on canvas, 30 x 23 in Philadelphia Museum of Art photo in public domain from Wikimedia.org

Rhetoriticians at a Window
Jan Steen, 1661-1666
Oil on canvas, 30 x 23 in
Philadelphia Museum of Art
photo in public domain from Wikimedia.org

Jan Steen (1626-1679) qualifies as a lesser Dutch master from the Golden Age. He went to the same Latin school attended by his contemporary, Rembrandt van Rijn. He was so well known for his boisterous genre paintings that a “Jan Steen household” became a Dutch phrase for a chaotic scene, “the standard by which all later family dysfunction can be measured” (Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History). The men pictured at the left are members of a rhetoric club, a type of dramatic and literary society popular at the time.

Jenkins has previously compared Colonel Van der Voort’s face to those of clowns by Teniers or Brouwer. The round face of the man at the lower left, reading a paper to his companions, reinforces the image.

 A Kermesse, by the way, is a Dutch or Flemish term for a fair or festival, originating from kerk (church) and mis (mass), and now used in English as “kermis” or “kirmess.”

 

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