Attributed to Jan Steen, 'Boys at a river bank'

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The Hague?
C. 1650
Oil on panel
14.7 cm
23 cm

H.P. Chapman, W.Th. Kloek & A.K. Wheelock (ed.), Jan Steen - Schilder en verteller, Amsterdam 1996, p. 169 - 171.


Private collection

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In a forest scene, two boys are swimming in a stream, their clothes lying on the bank. Two others are undressing on the bank, one wearing a red jacket and hat, the other standing facing the viewer in his white shirt. The work has been attributed to Jan Steen (Leiden 1626 - 1679) on the basis of stylistic features. This Dutch master is known for his humorous and ironic works, in which he depicts, among other things, messy households, drunken inn-dwellers and quacks. Yet his repertoire was not limited to these amusing pieces with a moralistic slant; Steen also painted various historical and mythological pieces, landscapes, still lifes and portraits.

Both the depiction of the people in the work, in dress and face, and the way the trees are painted bear similarities with, for example, 'Peasants playing skittles', c. 1655, now in the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna (inv. no. 6319) and 'Landscape with a Sand Road', c. 1648 in the collection of the Frans Hals Museum (inv. no. os 2011-13). This painting of boys swimming fits into the master's early period, around 1650, in which he was involved in experimentation and development. Steen married the daughter of landscape painter Jan van Goyen in 1649 and lived in The Hague in that period. It is possible that this painting is set in The Hague Woods. 


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