© Erik Smits via Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

“It seems like Jan Steen’s household” is a typically Dutch saying used when people make a mess of their house. You will discover something new every time in the lively and chaotic paintings by Jan Steen. You can admire his works at the Lakenhal, Frans Hals Museum, Rijksmuseum, or Mauritshuis. 

  • Jan Steen was born in Leiden in 1625 or 1626.
  • He is world famous for his representations of chaotic scenes from everyday life.
  • His work can be found at the Lakenhal, Rijksmuseum, Frans Hals Museum, and Mauritshuis.

The Life of Jan Steen

Little is known about Jan Steen’s life. He was trained by Nicolaus Knüpfer and inspired by Adriaen van Ostade. In 1649, Jan Steen moved in with painter Jan van Goyen in The Hague. He married van Goyen’s daughter Margriet and had eight children. A few years after Margriet died in 1669, he married Maria van Egmont, who gave him two more children. Jan Steen lived in Leiden, The Hague, Haarlem and Delft. He ran a brewery, a tavern and was dean of the Guild of Saint Luke, a city guild for painters in Leiden. 

The Work of Jan Steen

Jan Steen would paint lively and chaotic scenes from daily life with masterly technique and ingenious compositions. At first glance, the paintings seem to have been made  just to be amusing, but if you look closer you’ll find subtle hints that are meant to warn the viewer for the kind of behavior depicted.

Jan Steen produced at least 400 paintings in all sorts of themes: historical, mythological, natural and religious scenes, portraits and still lives. However, he is most famous for his scenes from daily life. A Dutch expression even refers to his work. “It’s a Jan Steen household”, meaning that it’s a chaotic and messy household.

Where to find Jan Steen

The works of Jan Steen are on shown at the Municipal Museum De Lakenhal in Leiden, the National Museum Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, the Frans Hals Museum and the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis.

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