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Rhetoricians at a Window

Jan Steen, Dutch (active Leiden, Haarlem, and The Hague), 1626 - 1679

Made in Netherlands, Europe


Oil on canvas

29 7/8 × 23 1/16 inches (75.9 × 58.6 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

* Gallery 362, European Art 1500-1850, third floor

Accession Number:
Cat. 512

Credit Line:
John G. Johnson Collection, 1917

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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.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.