Jan Steen (Dutch, 1626–1679)
Oil on canvas
42 1/2 x 35 1/2 in. (108 x 90.2 cm)
The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection, 1982 (1982.60.31)
This painting depicts a "Jan Steen household," a standard by which all later family dysfunction may be measured. The lady of the house tramples a Bible while having her wineglass refilled. Her husband and the maid join hands in a gesture suggesting service beyond the call of duty. The boy in blue fends off a beggar at the door, thus recalling the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:1931), in which the more fortunate figure goes to hell. Fate hangs over the family's head in the form of a basket holding a sword and switch (signifying justice and punishment), a crutch and can (forecasting poverty), and a wooden clapper (used by lepers and the plague-stricken). In this (sixteen-) sixties sitcom, Steen himself stars as the father, his wife Margriet van Goyen as mom, and their sons Thaddeus and (next to grandma) Cornelis as themselves.