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From the Collections: Paintings by Jan Steen

January 15–July 3, 1983

The Museum and Johnson Collections own ten paintings by or attributed to the famous 17th-century Dutch painter Jan Steen, comprising the wealthiest collection outside Holland. In addition to outstanding examples of genre scenes, Philadelphia has some of his early paintings dominated by landscape and one of his greatest history paintings, Moses Striking the Rock. Jan Steen was a gifted raconteur, whether depicting low life or some momentous episode of the Bible. His genre scenes employ a stock of human types--the starry-eyed suitor, the drunken sot, the lovesick maiden, the medical buffoon--whose actions by their very predictability make us laugh. Steen's greatness stems not only from his approach to comedy and drama; he was also capable of astonishing artistic and technical feats. His virtuosity as a painter will be examined in a special double issue of the Bulletin written by Peter C. Sutton, Associate Curator of European Painting, who also organized the exhibition. The technical report written by Museum Conservator Marigene Butler, the first scientific study of Steen's techniques and materials, will be of seminal importance in understanding Steen's working methods as well as those of his contemporaries.

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Peter Sutton

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