The Dutch painter Jan Steen (1626-1679) has long enjoyed a reputation for his dissolute life, redeemed only by a keen eye for the follies of his contemporaries and an exquisite ability to capture his observations in paint. Steen's paintings of unruly households, rambunctious revels, and wily seductresses have come to define our image of the delicious and immoral excesses of the Golden Age. But rather than simply recording the illicit pleasures of Dutch burghers and peasants, Steen transformed them into ambitious genre paintings that rival the peasant epics of Bruegel the Elder and jest with the genteel idylls of Vermeer and Terborch. By placing Steen within Dutch society and culture of the seventeenth century, Mariet Westermann shows how the contradictions and parallels between his life and his art were essential to his innovative achievements. In a detailed analysis of his career and audience, she suggests how Steen became a comic painter and why his pictures appealed to prosperous urban connoisseurs. Documented throughout with seventeenth-century jokes, poems, and plays, The Amusements of Jan Steen gives the first full account of Steen's creative relationship to comic literature and performance.
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