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Title Singers Outside an Inn
Collection Grosvenor Museum, Chester
Artist Manner of Steen, Jan (Dutch painter, 1626-1679)
Date Earliest about 1640
Date Latest possibly about 1740
Description Steen was a Dutch figure and genre painter. Born in Leiden, he became a founder member of the painters' Guild of St Luke in 1648. From 1649 he was active in The Hague, Delft and Haarlem, before returning in 1670 to Leiden. His figures are often shown playing cards or skittles, or drinking: his frequent use of inns probably reflects his own background, not only as a brewer's son but, as a brewer and tavern keeper himself. Steen's humour functions on two levels simultaneously. At first sight the comical effect seems solely on overstatement: strong and schematic characterization, expressive, and often grimacing, faces and rhetorical gestures. At the same time, however, there are subtle innuendos and ambiguous hints in the narrative that create an amazingly wide margin for interpretation. Various possible teachers have been mentioned in documents, including Jan Van Goyen whose daughter Steen married, although Adriaen van Ostade, an early painter of low-life genre in Haarlem, would appear to have been the most influential, particularly on Steen's early work. Steen's style and subject matter continued to develop throughout his career. By 1654 Steen had settled in Delft, which brought him into contact with artists such as Pieter de Hooch and Nicolaes Maes. The characteristics of their works being; experiments with perspective, spatial effects, and a clear warm light, which also become increasingly present in Steen's work. Despite his lack of success during his lifetime, he must have been immensely popular in Holland in the early eighteenth century, when his signature was added to many works more or less closely connected with his style and subject matter. Numerous copies and imitations originated in that period and they are not always easily distinguishable from genuine works; moreover, a certain form of crude humour in a painting seems to have been enough for some dealers and collectors to consider an attribution to Jan Steen.
Current Accession Number 1965.146
Subject everyday life (singers outside an inn)
Measurements 28 x 25 cm (estimate)
Material oil on panel
Acquisition Details Transferred from Chester Free Public Library 1920.
Notes Compositionally different to the other work in the manner of Steen in Chester (1965.145) as the figures and the inn are positioned right. The colouring with accents of red and white in hats and shawls is however concurrent with the other work. Notes on artist taken from: Lyckle de Vries, 'Steen, Jan (Havicksz)', Grove Art Online, Oxford University Press, 2 July 2006, http://www.groveart.com.
Rights Owner Grosvenor Museum, Chester
Author Lisa Howard



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