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Rhetoricians at a Window

1658-1665
Jan Steen, Dutch (active Leiden, Haarlem, and The Hague), 1626 - 1679
These mirthful men are members of a chamber of rhetoric, a type of dramatic and literary society popular throughout the Dutch Republic. These groups performed plays, tableau vivants, and poetry readings. At left, the group’s orator reads a paper titled Lof Liet (Song of Praise), while the poet who composed the verse looks on over his shoulder. Opposite, a critic listens pensively while a jester provokes laughter from onlookers. Many artists were members of such societies. While it is not known if Steen himself belonged, he frequently embraced elements of stage performance, theatricality, and poetry in his art....

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